Government satisfied with Hui's unvetted firm

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 July, 2008, 12:00am

Former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan has not received official approval for his new business venture under rules guarding against conflict of interests, officials confirmed yesterday.

But the government said it was satisfied that Mr Hui had no need to seek approval because the company had not engaged in any real business during his one-year so-called 'sanitisation' period.

A legislator condemned the government's stance last night, saying it set a bad precedent that would allow ministers to abuse the system.

Mr Hui, who was appointed an executive councillor after stepping down as chief secretary last July, revealed in his latest declaration of interests that he co-owned a company called R H and Lang with David Lie Tai-chong.

Mr Lie is an Election Committee member and a former independent non-executive director of Wheelock Properties. He and Mr Hui are both delegates to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

The company is looking into property investment opportunities on the mainland and in Taiwan.

Exco records show Mr Hui owns 50 per cent of R H and Lang, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. Mr Lie owns the other half and is the sole director.

Under the rules for principal officials, those stepping down should seek advice from the advisory committee on post-office employment for principal officials within the first year after leaving their posts.

In a written reply to Post inquiries yesterday, the Chief Executive's Office said Mr Hui had told the government about the start-up.

'Mr Hui has also informed us that this company will not engage in any business between its setting up in November 2007 and the end of his one-year sanitisation period in July 2008,' it said.

'We are satisfied that, for merely the formation of a company where no real business or activity is expected to be conducted, there will be no need to seek the advice of the advisory committee.'

Democrat legislator Cheung Man-kwong said: 'What is the point of having the rules if everybody can offer their assurance that they will not break them? And the definition of engaging in business can be very vague. Doing business can mean more than having transactions. Meeting possible clients can be part of business operations.'

Mr Hui could not be reached for comment last night.