ICAC should boycott LegCo ‘Rebecca Li’ select committee
Tony Kwok explains why the LegCo select committee to investigate the ICAC really intends to hurt the reputation of HK’s top anti-graft body
It is now blatantly clear that the sole objective of the “Rebecca Li” LegCo select committee is to damage the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (ICAC) international reputation by scoring cheap political points for its chief proponents. From the start of the saga, the “pan-democratic” legislators did everything possible to prompt the international media and sensationalize the issue. The New York Times quoted Democratic Party chair Emily Lau Waihing as saying,“Hong Kong is finished!” The Diplomat also quoted Apple Daily as saying that “the removal of Li was due to the Chinese government’s distrust in her due to her history with the FBI”. There is nothing further from the truth!
Li’s “history with the FBI” is simply that she was sent to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy for four-weeks’ mid-management training during my term as deputy commissioner. At that time we sent officers for training not just to the FBI but to the UK Police Staff College, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Academy, the Australian Federal Police College, etc, as part of the enhanced professional training program for mid-level officers. It’s preposterous to suggest that Li was removed from her acting post because of her training with the FBI. If nothing else it demonstrated the international media’s ignorance, if not deceitful political slander, on China and the SAR, aided by the local “pandems”.
If there is to be any criticism of the ICAC’s handling of this episode, I believe it is that the commissioner was too kind-hearted and considerate. When Li was placed in the acting post in 2015, it was clear that it was an “acting appointment for administrative convenience”, implying that she was not considered suitable for promotion at that time. But since no other suitable candidate was available, she was asked to act temporarily for operational convenience until a suitable candidate could be identified.
If the ICAC commissioner had announced this fact at the time of her acting, the subsequent stepping down would not have created such a commotion. But the commissioner was clearly trying to be considerate by not mentioning this fact, so she could maintain the necessary authority to run the Operations Department during her The author is a former deputy commissioner of the ICAC and currently an adjunct professor of HKU SPACE and an international anti-corruption consultant. acting term. It should be pointed out that prolonged acting for administrative convenience is hardly unusual in the civil service and should not generate any controversy. For example, Stephen Fisher was acting director of social welfare for two years without achieving promotion when he retired. The former commissioner of the ICAC, Bertrand de Speville, also revealed he had acted as solicitor-general in the Department of Justice for over a year without substantive promotion.
The Democratic Party’s Lam Cheukting, who claims to be an ICAC expert due to his three-year employment with the ICAC as a junior investigator, proposed setting up a Powers and Privileges public hearing on this issue. He alleges that Li’s resignation was related to the ICAC investigation into the propertyrelated UGL affair involving the Chief Executive. When asked to produce any evidence to support his allegation, he could produce none!
As Bertrand de Speville, a highly respected ICAC commissioner during the British colonial administration, pointed out, “The checks and balances and the accountability systems in the ICAC, especially the advisory committees, protect it from any political interference.”
One of the most important watchdog committees is the Operations Review Committee (ORC), consisting of members of high standing, including at least two members from the “pandem” camp. During its meetings every six weeks the ORC receives progress reports on all major ICAC investigations, plus a comprehensive report at the conclusion of each investigation. Hence it is not possible for any political interference in ICAC investigations to escape the committee’s notice. Perhaps Lam Cheuk-ting was too junior during his ICAC service to have a chance to understand the ORC’s functions or to appear before it.
His public hearing proposal was deliberated at length and defeated. And that should have been the end of the matter. However, the “pan-dems” abused their power by needlessly setting up a LegCo select committee that looks to be doomed to complete failure. Such a committee has no power to order any release of documents or to summon witnesses, and from past practices, they have never achieved anything useful but to put on a hollow political show while wasting public resources and manpower. But in this case, it could possibly set an extremely bad precedent that will reverberate through our entire civil service.
It is a golden rule of the civil service that it never discloses why any particular officer failed to be promoted because to do so could hold such officers up to public humiliation over their supposed deficiencies. Therefore the greatest victim of this select committee could be Rebecca Li herself! Hence in order to protect the long-standing civil service policy and the reputation of Li, the ICAC should in my view boycott this select committee. It could put up a public written submission but should refuse to appear before the committee. This may prevent the committee from setting a dangerous precedent and further complicating what is but an ordinary civil service personnel movement.
Such a committee has no power to order any release of documents or to summon witnesses, and from past practices, they have never achieved anything useful but to put on a hollow political show while wasting public resources and manpower. But in this case, it could possibly set an extremely bad precedent that will reverberate through our entire civil service.”