Probe team defended following complaint

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 September, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 September, 2004, 12:00am

It is too early to scrap investigation, says Equal Opportunities Commission chief

The Equal Opportunities Commission chairwoman yesterday defended the work of an independent panel investigating the body, after a legislator complained to Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa that the inquiry team lacked credibility.

Patricia Chu Yeung Pak-yu said the panel had been appointed and its terms of reference drafted with the Legislative Council's approval and it was too early to scrap it.

Mrs Chu said the commission had done its utmost to co-operate with the panel and now that the investigation was already halfway through, she hoped it would be allowed to finish its inquiry and come up with a report that was 'open, fair, reliable and accountable to the public'.

'It is really too early to scrap the panel because their work is just halfway through, so we have to wait and see the outcome,' Mrs Chu said.

The panel was appointed in May by Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping to investigate the controversies that plagued the statutory body last year and to help rebuild its reputation and credibility. Its report is expected to be completed early next year.

But the panel has come under fire for lacking independence, given that it was appointed by Dr Ho.

The minister met the commission's then chairman, Michael Wong Kin-chow, behind closed doors hours before Mr Wong resigned the post. At the meeting, which was also attended by Executive Councillor Andrew Liao Cheung-sing and a member of the commission's board, Raymond Wu Wai-yung, a list of allegations against Mr Wong's predecessor, Anna Wu Hung-yuk, is alleged to have been drawn up.

Dr Ho claims he was not present for the list's drafting.

David Li Kwok-po, banking sector lawmaker and chairman of the Bank of East Asia, on Monday revealed he had an hour-long conversation with Mr Tung and wrote him a letter urging him to step in and appoint a new panel.

Several non-governmental organisations, Patrick Yu Chung-yin, who was sacked as the commission's director of operations, and Ms Wu have refused to co-operate with the investigating panel.

Mrs Chu said the panel had done a lot of research and had been interviewing many of the people involved, and it was too early to say whether it lacked independence in the conduct of the investigation.

Law Yuk-kai, the director of Human Rights Monitor, said that Mrs Chu should refrain from commenting on the panel, since its work was rife with conflicts of interest and the commission itself was the subject of the investigation.

'How can an inquiry be possible without the co-operation of Anna Wu and Patrick Yu and most of the active NGOs?' Mr Law said.