'Here's my name card, you know my salary'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 April, 2009, 12:00am

Ministerial deputy Greg So Kam-leung apologised yesterday for supplying his government name card as proof of income when renewing his maid's contract, saying he hadn't been 'careful enough'.

The apology from the undersecretary for commerce and economic development came after media reports of the incident following an anonymous tip-off.

Immigration officers expressed surprise that their department had accepted Mr So's card in place of the usual proof, which includes bank statements and tax records.

Lawmakers accused Mr So of abusing his position and demanded an explanation from Security chief Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong and Immigration Director Simon Peh Yun-lu.

But the Immigration Department refused to comment on an individual case, saying only that standard practice required salary, bank and tax records proving the applicant was financially sound.

Mr So acknowledged on Wednesday he had given his name card to his Filipino maid of 20 years to submit as proof of his income. He said his salary - disclosed after a public row over his and other political appointments - was a matter of 'public record'. He said he did so because he had not received his latest tax records.

Yesterday, in response to what he termed the 'name card issue', Mr So said: 'I acknowledge that I was not careful enough in handling the matter. However, I never had any intention of seeking special treatment. I apologise for having caused any inconvenience to my colleagues and any possible concern.'

The Immigration Department said all applications were processed in accordance with existing policies, regulations and procedures.

'The proof of financial capability includes notice of tax assessment issued by the Inland Revenue Department, bank passbook, salary statement and other relevant documents which prove the employer is financially sound,' a spokesman said.

Immigration officers, speaking anonymously, said they were shocked that the department had accepted an employer's name card as proof of income on a contract renewal application.

'It is unacceptable; we haven't heard of a case like that before,' one officer said.

Demanding an explanation, legislators said they would follow up the issue at meetings of the Legislative Council's security or constitutional affairs panels.

'This is not just a matter of carelessness, but an abuse of power,' unionist lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said.

Legislator Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a former director of immigration, said Mr So had been unwise and careless, giving the public the perception that he wanted to show off his official standing. Every official received a salary payment advice that Mr So could have submitted as proof of income, she said.

Acting Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said principal officials had to follow the Code for Officials under the Political Appointment System, as well as ensure their behaviour and integrity met public expectations.