A heavily indebted Hong Kong businessman who stepped down as a deputy to China’s National People’s Congress has been praised for his commitment, as it was confirmed his resignation would be discussed by the country’s top legislative body.
Thomas Cheung Tsun-yung, 49, resigned from the NPC, the country’s legislature, after two casinos took him to court for debts amounting to more than US$1.9 million. He is the first local delegate to quit over personal matters since the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative on the NPC Standing Committee, confirmed that Cheung’s resignation was on the agenda of the top legislative body’s six-day meeting and was set to be put to a vote on Saturday.
“I respect Cheung’s decision. His resignation shows his commitment,” Tam said on Monday, agreeing that the court cases had ruined the businessman’s reputation as a local deputy.
The regular meeting, which started on Monday, has 30 items on the agenda, according to the committee’s official social media account, including discussions on 11 national laws.
Tam said Cheung’s resignation was the only item related to Hong Kong and that the now-lifted anti-mask law was not on the agenda.
Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, earlier invoked a colonial-era emergency law to ban masks at public assemblies amid months of ongoing social unrest sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.
A Hong Kong court last month ruled that the mask ban was unconstitutional, prompting speculation that Beijing might interpret the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, over the decision.
Tam said that if issues over an interpretation of the relevant laws were to be discussed, they would first have to be put before the Basic Law Committee under the NPCSC for study. He said he had no such information for now.
Cheung was first taken to court by the management of MGM Macau in September for racking up debts of 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.
Cheung, elected for the first time as an NPC delegate in December 2017, earlier said that as he understood the case was regarded as a “negative and sensitive thing” in mainland China, he tendered his resignation to the Standing Committee in October.
Hong Kong has 36 deputies to the 3,000-strong NPC. 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, was expected to fill Cheung’s seat if the Standing Committee approved his resignation.