Justice secretary 'will consider' staying out of senior officials' cases

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 June, 2012, 12:00am


The law against corruption involving senior officials is clear, says Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung, and he will consider disengaging from sensitive cases so the prosecution will be fair and seen to be so.

Citing 'one country, two systems and a high degree of autonomy', Wong (pictured) also denied claims that his current three-day Beijing visit was to brief mainland officials on the latest development's in the ICAC investigations of alleged conflicts of interest by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, and allegations of bribery and misconduct in public office following the arrest of former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan and the Kwok brothers. They have not been charged with any offence and are on bail.

'If senior government officials or former senior government officials are involved in corruption cases and are under the investigation of law enforcement agencies, you can be assured - the law is very clear regarding this in the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance,' he said on RTHK.

'If it concerns the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the transparency of the investigation's procedure is even clearer.'

A mechanism was in place to ensure fairness when cases involved sensitive people, he said. 'That includes giving the decision of whether to prosecute to the director of public prosecutions, or seeking advice from an individual barrister,' he said.

His remarks were in response to recent comments the former director of prosecutions, Grenville Cross, made in a public lecture yesterday at the University of Hong Kong. He said Wong, the chief prosecutor appointed by the central government, should disengage from prosecutions in favour of the director.

In fact, on March 29 when Hui and the co-chairmen of Sun Hung Kai Properties, Raymond Kwok Ping-luen and Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, were arrested, Wong swiftly delegated the authority to Director of Public Prosecutions Kevin Zervos because he 'has no connection with the persons involved in the case' and 'to avoid any possible perception of bias or improper influence'.

Cross said Wong's move to excuse himself from the case involving his former colleague was correct, but 'his decision to withdraw from Hui's case begs the question of why he has not also announced his disengagement from the cases of Tsang and [former chief secretary Henry] Tang [Ying-yen]. The secretary for justice, who reports to the chief executive, is a government minister, appointed by the central authorities, yet he is also the chief prosecutor, which involves a clear conflict of roles'.

Cross was referring to an ICAC investigation into illegal structures in the basement of Tang's Kowloon Tong home.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said it disagreed with Cross because 'the decision to prosecute is based on evidence' gathered by law enforcement agencies, and they were free from any interference.

Wong also rejected a Chinese-language newspaper report claiming that his Beijing visit to exchange views with relevant officials on legal issues was actually to brief mainland authorities on the latest developments related to the ICAC investigations of Tsang and Hui.

'The principles of 'one country, two systems', a high degree of autonomy, our excellent spirit of the rule of law, and the independent prosecution mechanism are things that we value exceedingly and which I have diligently kept to,' Wong said.