Businessman Thomas Cheung resigns as Hong Kong deputy to China’s legislature over casino debts

Kimmy Chung

A Hong Kong deputy to China’s legislature has resigned after two casinos took him to court for debts amounting to more than US$1.9 million.

Thomas Cheung Tsun-yung, 49, is the first local delegate to the National People’s Congress (NPC) to step down over personal matters since the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

“I know the court cases have cast a very negative impact on my image as an NPC delegate. I don’t want to embarrass the whole team from Hong Kong,” Cheung, a businessman, told the Post on Friday.

“In Hong Kong, people may take it as a commercial dispute but it is quite a negative and sensitive thing in the mainland.”

There are currently 36 Hong Kong deputies to the NPC, which has nearly 3,000 members.

The conference to elect Hong Kong deputies to the National People’s Congress was held in December 2017. Photo: Xinhua

Cheung was first taken to court by the management of MGM Macau in September for racking up debts amounting to more than HK$4.46 million (US$572,000) in the casino last year. Earlier this month, another casino in Las Vegas filed a lawsuit demanding that he repay debts of US$1.35 million.

“For me, gambling is normal entertainment for a businessman. But it went wrong when I was put to the court for this reason,” Cheung said, lamenting that he was a victim of the trade war between the US and China.

In Hong Kong, people may take it as a commercial dispute but it is quite a negative and sensitive thing in the mainland

Thomas Cheung

The businessman said he had been running businesses related to technology in the US, and got some of his assets locked amid the trade war, making it difficult for him to generate cash flow and repay the debts.

Cheung said as he understood that NPC deputies should be politically “whiter than white”, he tendered his resignation to the NPC Standing Committee in October.

The committee will hold a regular, bimonthly meeting from Wednesday to Saturday next week in Beijing.

The MGM hotel and casino in Macau. Photo: Handout

The city’s sole representative to the committee, Tam Yiu-chung, said from the meeting’s agenda, the qualification of delegates would be discussed. But it was unclear whether it was about Cheung or other delegates, he said.

Veteran Hong Kong deputy to National People’s Congress Peter Wong Man-kong dies at age 70

In December 2017, Cheung was elected for the first time as an NPC delegate, claiming the 33rd place in the election from 49 candidates for the current term.

Lawyer Nick Chan Hiu-fung, who came in 37th, had filled the place of veteran deputy Peter Wong Man-kong, who died in March this year.

Under the rules, Wong Kwan-yu, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, who came 38th in the polls, was expected to fill Cheung’s seat if the Standing Committee approved his resignation.

Cheung, also a council member of the City University of Hong Kong, said he had no plans to resign from the institution, citing different ethical requirements.

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