Press leak probes rare, says official

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 January, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 January, 1996, 12:00am

THE Government has carried out just 'one or two' investigations into press leaks in the last two years, according to Government Security Officer John Ng Sheung-lok.

Mr Ng, who conducts the inquiries, said all such probes had to be authorised by the Chief Secretary.

He refused to provide details of those which had taken place.

There were no formal criteria for starting an inquiry, and the Government would do so only if the leak had cast serious doubt on an officer's integrity and if it bordered on a criminal offence.

'We will not conduct inquiries simply because the leak has embarrassed the Government or upset certain officials,' he said.

'In most cases, the information leaked was supposed to be made known at a later stage.' The Government had become more open over the years and probes of this kind took time and manpower.

Mr Ng, a former superintendent, was seconded from the police to the Government security unit in September 1993 and officially took over the job last year.

He was one of the first batch of Special Duties Unit officers in 1974.

Mr Ng said if a leak was found to be criminal, it would be referred to the police.

The main aim of an inquiry was to find out if procedures needed to be improved and not to catch the culprit, which was difficult.

It was more than six years since a civil servant was disciplined for passing information to the press.

In March, Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang ordered a leak inquiry into Sunday Morning Post revelations that the Government planned to do little over a Foreign Office blunder relating to the legal status of then Legislative Council president John Swaine.

Mr Ng said the Government used to treat every leak seriously but things started to change in the 1980s. The Government had become more open and many rumoured inquiries had never been carried out.