South China Morning Post
Wednesday, May 17, 2000
Justice chief to stay on
CHRIS YEUNG and SHIRLEY LAU
Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie, at the centre of
two major controversies involving the rule of law, has
been reappointed for two more years. Her contract will
expire at the end of June 2002, when Chief Executive
Tung Chee-hwa's term ends.
Speaking after an Executive Council meeting, Mr Tung
said Miss Leung, whose present contract expires at the
end of next month, accepted the invitation to stay on.
He said her post was "highly sensitive and challenging"
and that she had "performed very well" in advising on
Basic Law-related issues and the relationship between
the two legal systems. Miss Leung had provided
"excellent leadership" in the Justice Department, he said.
Miss Leung, standing at Mr Tung's side, said she was
honoured to accept the invitation. She said that, despite
harsh criticism of her handling of some cases in the past
two years, she was pleased with her performance and
would continue to maintain the rule of law.
"What we did in the past years was the combined effort
of a lot of people in and out of the department. On the
whole, I am satisfied with the contribution by this
department towards the development of the legal system
in Hong Kong and the maintenance of the rule of law. I
believe the public will go on with their support for the
work of the Justice Department," she said.
Miss Leung, 61, first aroused serious criticism over her
handling of the circulation fraud at the Hong Kong
Standard. Sally Aw Sian - then chairman of Sing Tao
Holdings, which owned the newspaper - was not
charged in the case, although she was named as a
Miss Leung said Ms Aw had not been charged "in the
public interest". Critics suggested the real reason was
that Ms Aw was well-connected and a friend of the
Tung family. In March last year, Miss Leung survived a
no-confidence vote in the Legislative Council after telling
lawmakers she had considered the loss of jobs at Sing
Tao Holdings, which might have occurred if Ms Aw had
been charged and the company closed. Four Standard
executives were convicted and jailed for the fraud.
Miss Leung's commitment to the rule of law was also
questioned over the right-of-abode controversy. The
Government asked Beijing to intervene to - in effect -
overturn a Court of Final Appeal ruling greatly
increasing the number of mainlanders eligible to move to
Yesterday, Miss Leung said the move to seek Beijing's
reinterpretation of the Basic Law was in line with the
"one country, two systems" principle. "The interpretation
of certain provisions of the Basic Law by the Standing
Committee of the National People's Congress helps to
assure us how the Basic Law is to be implemented and
enables us to understand better the concept of 'one
country, two systems'."
Miss Leung denied that her reappointment might arouse
dissatisfaction. "If the SAR Government was not
pleased [with me], I wouldn't have made such a
decision. As for the public's view, I'll leave it to the
public to make comment."
Miss Leung, a solicitor before being named by Mr Tung
as the first post-handover Secretary for Justice, was
treated for colon cancer in April 1998 and said she had
since recovered. "I think my health is good enough to
cope with the extension and that's why I accepted the
Chief Executive's offer . . . I am having regular
check-ups and my doctor says I am all right." She
declined to say whether her staying on was due to a
lack of successor.
The reappointment drew flak from pro-democracy
legislators and human rights activists. A Human Rights
Monitor spokesman said: "The Chief Executive's
willingness to reappoint Miss Leung shows the
hollowness of his professed commitment to the rule of
law. His motto appears to be 'my friends, right or
wrong'. We have absolutely no confidence in her."
However, Exco member Yang Ti Liang, a former chief
justice, said: "Miss Leung has adhered to the principle of
law and the beliefs in 'one country, two systems'. [The
reappointment] is good for Hong Kong."
Exco Convenor Leung Chun-ying said Miss Leung had
made an enormous contribution to the overall interest of
Hong Kong while in the post. "She has done a very
good job in not to wrong [somebody with false charges]
and not to shield [someone from the arm of law]."