Exco, EOC allies back Lam to fill roles on both
Tony Cheung, Ng Kang-chung Thomas Chan and Olga Wong
The new Executive Council convenor said for the second day running yesterday that he may quit because of a perceived conflict of interest with his other position as chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission.
At least 15 of his colleagues on both bodies backed him to stay on, but Lam Woon-kwong said he would decide in the next few days after carefully weighing public expectations.
'If the public thinks there is a conflict of interest ... my choice should be natural - to keep my original role in the EOC,' Lam said on a radio programme.
Among executive councillors urging him to stay on were former commission chairman Anna Wu Hung-yuk, Cheung Chi-kong and Barry Cheung Chun-yuen.
Among the commission members who also said they trusted him to strike a balance were 2008 Paralympics equestrian competitor Nelson Yip Siu-hong, president of the Pakistan Association of Hong Kong Zaman Minhas Qamar and Sun Hung Kai Properties public affairs director Lee Luen-fai.
The question of a conflict of interest arose on Wednesday when commission member and lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee asked Lam to quit Exco, and sought a special commission meeting to discuss the matter. Fellow member John Tse Wing-ling said Lam should choose one post. But Wu, who chaired the anti-discrimination watchdog from 1999 to 2003, said Lam's advice would be useful in Exco.
'Apart from monitoring government activities ... [the commission] is an adviser to the government in terms of promotion of this area of law and its spirit,' she said.
Cheung said there was an established system of declaration of interests in Exco, and it would be inappropriate to ask Lam to quit.
Lee also dismissed fears of conflict of interest. 'People have many different roles and have their own interests in one way or another,' he said. 'Most important is that there is a proper system to avoid conflict.'
Lam, director of the Chief Executive's Office under Tung Chee-hwa, said he agreed to join Exco - after initially turning it down - because he wanted to 'stop draconian policies and legislation' and advise Leung on measures to help change the city.
But he agreed that his thoughts of promoting equal opportunity by joining Exco 'now seem a bit na?ve'.
'I basically agree with the analysis that, if the government values equal opportunities and human rights enough, [the EOC chairman does not have to be in Exco].'
The commission is often critical of government policies, and its role includes offering financial support to people who sue the government over allegations of discrimination.
Lam said a conflict of interest was unlikely because Exco was not responsible for the execution of government policies.