Rent-case Democrat vows not to quit

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 July, 2005, 12:00am

The Democrat under attack over expense claims for a party district office has challenged the findings of an internal investigation, insisting he had behaved with integrity.

'I will not resign,' legislator James To Kun-sun told radio listeners, after callers to phone-ins demanded he quit. He said the party was partly to blame for the blunder.

Political rivals repeated their allegation that Mr To had swindled public funds and called on police and the ICAC to investigate.

During September's Legislative Council election, Mr To was accused of paying above-market rent for the office in Shamshuipo owned by a company, Target Link. He then claimed the money back in expenses but failed to declare his stake in the company, which he claimed he held in trust for the party.

Defending himself in radio talk shows yesterday, Mr To admitted he was to blame for poor record-keeping concerning the property.

He challenged surveyors' assessments of the office's monthly rental value, which ranged between $5,400 and $7,100. He and two other district councillors with whom he shared the office had been claiming up to $13,800 a month in expenses for renting the office.

'The gap could not have been that big,' Mr To said, and questioned the criteria used in the assessment presented in the investigators' report.

He denied he was dissatisfied with the party's treatment of him, saying: 'I have my share of responsibility and the party also has its own share. My party still trusts me. That's the bottom line.'

He said he had urged the party to launch disciplinary action against him. Mr To did not appear before the investigating panel.

Yesterday he said: 'I regret that there wasn't a chance to meet ... My views have not been accepted.'

Party vice-chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said he believed Mr To could have convinced the panel members to soften its criticisms had he chosen to meet them.

Gladys Li, one of the investigators, said the fact Mr To and others involved had not met them had not affected their conclusions. 'I don't know which part of the report he feels is unfair to him,' she said.

Lau Kong-wah, vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said law enforcement agencies should review the case in light of the report.

Former district councillor Wong Siu-yee, who earlier asked the Independent Commission Against Corruption to investigate the case, said the agency had told him it would study the investigators' report.

Mr Wong said he would ask the police to investigate whether public funds had been abused.

A spokeswoman for the ICAC would not comment on Mr To's case. The legislator said the agency had told him it would not pursue his case further.