Calls for independent prosecutions chief grow
A Basic Law expert has become the latest legal heavyweight calling for an independent director of public prosecutions amid the scandal over Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's spending.
Alan Hoo, Basic Law Institute chairman, urged that a format to deal with sensitive cases be adopted 'so that justice is done and, more importantly, perceived to be done'.
The Director of Public Prosecutions Kevin Zervos is answerable to the government's chief legal adviser, Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung. Hoo called for a protocol to be set up which would take effect in the event of government scandals and which would empower the DPP to take control of the case outside the reach of government influence.
'Don't you have to learn from what has just happened to the CE's code of conduct?' said Hoo, referring to an unwritten rule Tsang said he used when accepting favours. Under this code, Tsang would accept a ride on a private yacht or jet but would pay back the cost at market values.
'You can't have a secret code ... if things are to be done as a matter of practice then it should be formalised into a convention, like a protocol, which everybody can see,' Hoo said. The unwritten rule was denounced by former chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang, head of an independent review of how senior officials handle conflicts of interests, as 'inconsistent with the proper conduct of public administration'.
Wong said recently he would consider disengaging from sensitive cases, alerting some critics to the absence of a clear protocol.
Hoo suggested the Department of Justice adopt the same practice as in England and Wales, where protocol stipulates the government's chief legal adviser would not be consulted in cases relating to ministers, parliamentarians, political parties or the conduct of elections, or any case in which the relevant officers may have a personal or professional conflict of interest. Wong declined to follow this example last year.
Huen Wong, a former president of the Law Society, said he did not think such a move was necessary because 'Wong Yan-lung practises civil law and will rely on the DPP when criminal advice is needed.'
Discussion on the issue has regained momentum after the emergence of several cases involving senior government officials. Former DPP Grenville Cross fuelled the debate further two weeks ago when he again called for an independent DPP.
Tsang is under criminal investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption for allegedly receiving favours from tycoons, while two of his former chief secretaries, Rafael Hui Si-yan and Henry Tang Ying-yen, are also being investigated, respectively, by the ICAC for alleged bribery and misconduct in public office, and by the Buildings Department for an alleged illegal basement at his home.