Hong Kong’s new deputy justice secretary has said he will quit the city’s largest pro-Beijing political party, fearing his affiliation could undermine public perceptions of his impartiality in handling prosecution cases.
Lawyer-turned-politician Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, who previously resigned as vice-president of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) but intended to remain a member, said revealed that he had changed his mind.
In a statement posted on his social media account on Wednesday, Cheung, who also resigned as a lawmaker for his new role, said he met with DAB chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king on Tuesday.
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He said he had notified him of his “decision not to remain a DAB member to pave the way for me to take up official duties, even though remaining a member is in full accordance with the requirements of the Hong Kong SAR government. and the law”.
He added: “I expressed my gratitude to the DAB for the support throughout and the opportunity given to me.”
Lee said she understands Cheung’s decision to quit the political party.
Bar Association President Victor Dawes told the Job Monday that “public perception was important” after it emerged that Cheung initially wanted to retain his membership in the political party, but it was unclear whether he would be involved in prosecution decisions.
However, Dawes had said he believed Cheung was aware of those concerns and would act appropriately.
“At the end of the day, public perception is important and I’m sure [Cheung] is already very aware of this, and I am confident that he will do what is in the public interest,” he said.
On Wednesday, Dawes added that he had nothing further to say in light of the latest developments.
Hong Kong Bar Association head stresses importance of ‘public perception’
On Sunday, Cheung was named deputy to new justice secretary Paul Lam Ting-kwok — a new post under the next administration that will be led by chief executive-designate John Lee Ka-chiu.
Lam promised a clear division of labor between himself and Cheung, but said details would only be revealed after discussions with his colleagues when he took over as justice minister.
Several politicians have previously continued their membership in political parties after being selected as ministers, but the unique role of the Ministry of Justice has sparked debate over whether it was appropriate for Cheung to do the same, especially when he could be involved in prosecution decisions.
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Separately, outgoing health minister Prof Sophia Chan Siu-chee became emotional during her final Legislative Council meeting before her term expires on June 30.
Holding back tears, Ms. Chan expressed her gratitude to lawmakers, her colleagues and outgoing leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor for all their support.
“I am grateful to [my colleagues] who have spared no effort to fight the pandemic over the past two years,” she said, adding that she would continue to serve both the city and the nation in other capacities at the coming.
Under the new government, Chan will be replaced by Dr. Lo Chung-mau, director of the Queen Mary Hospital Liver Transplant Center and head of the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital.
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