The Airport Authority’s credibility will be damaged if it appeals against a ruling it broke security rules during a controversy surrounding the daughter of Hong Kong’s former leader, Leung Chun-ying, a union spokeswoman said on Friday.
Hong Kong Cabin Crew Federation spokeswoman Carol Ng Man-yee also said she hoped the authority would consider revisiting its rules – which were changed in April before the judicial review.
“If the authority appeals, its credibility will be hurt and its professional capability questioned by the public,” Ng said.
Legal scholar Eric Cheung Tat-ming accused the authority of “moving the goalposts” and hinted at a possible judicial review of the new safety rules, but said he hoped the government would “set things right” by themselves.
“The judge already ruled it was unjust that the authority changed the rules,” Cheung said. “It is very problematic.”
The High Court ruled on Thursday that airport chiefs broke security rules when they allowed a flight attendant to take unattended baggage through security screening to pass it to the then chief executive’s daughter, Leung Chung-yan, at a boarding gate in 2016.
Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming agreed with flight attendant Law Mei-mei, who brought the judicial review, that Leung should have been present when her bag was X-rayed. He added it was unjust for the authority to dismiss Law’s application on the sole ground that it was “academic” since the government had changed the rules after the event.
Hong Kong’s transport minister, Frank Chan Fan, said he respected the court ruling and would review the judge’s opinions and consult the Department of Justice.
The authority said would study the court’s decision in detail, but did not say whether it would appeal, given the rules had already been amended.
In response to Leung Chun-ying who had posted comments on Facebook saying the authority had always allowed courtesy deliveries, Ng said it referred to lost items and did not apply to this case.
“Everything related to the name of CY Leung, Leung will himself describe or accuse others of making political,” Ng said. “I hope we do not ignore the core problem of the issue, which is safety.
“I think [Leung and his family] should try their best to be role models instead of challenging rules using all kinds of reasons.”
Both Ng and Cheung called for the government to change the rules as soon as possible to require passengers to be present at the screening of “all cabin baggage” for safety reasons.
“I hope the authority can be practical,” Ng said. “We applied for a judicial review not because we are striving for vindication, but if the loopholes are not fixed, nobody knows when we may be confronted with a terrorist attack.”
The original rule, which governed the process for luggage that had been left unattended, required passengers to be present at the screening of “all cabin baggage”. The original version was removed and replaced with a new one in April two months before the court hearing, following allegations Leung had flouted the rule.
The authority argued in court the review was “academic”, because the secretary for security amended the rules in 2018 and claimed the change had been made to save the court’s time and costs.
“The authorities thought they would have the power like the NPC to do so, but the court ignored this,” he said.
The authorities thought they would have the power like the NPC to do so, but the court ignored this
Eric Cheung Tat-ming, legal scholar
The Airport Authority said: “The implementation of security measures at Hong Kong International Airport, including the security screening of passengers’ baggage has been strictly based on the requirements of International Civil Aviation Organisation and the Aviation Security Programme issued by the Hong Kong Government.
“With respect to the security screening of cabin bags, the primary screening is conducted using X-ray machines. Secondary screening, including a hand search must be conducted in the presence of the concerned passenger.
“This has always been the procedure at HKIA over the years, in meeting with the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the Aviation Security Programme issued by the Hong Kong Government.”
The Security Bureau said the amendments to the Hong Kong Aviation Seurity Programme in April were made “in accordance with the statutory procedure”.
“The amended provisions clearly reflect the long-standing practice, which is fully in line with the International Civil Aviation Organization requirements,” the bureau spokesman said. “There was no change to the security screening procedure that passengers undergo.”
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Cheung