Tsui accuses ICAC of political vetting

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 April, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 April, 1994, 12:00am

THE ICAC had investigated one of the Government's most senior and longest-serving officers and had bugged a former Executive Councillor's phone, according to bombshell testimony to Legislative Councillors yesterday.

Yeung Kai-yin, a former treasury secretary and secretary for transport, had left the civil service after he was found to have a ''close relationship'' with Xinhua (the New China News Agency), according to former ICAC deputy director of operations Alex Tsui Ka-kit.

He also claimed that the phone of Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, a former Legislative and Executive Councillor and now a member of the China-appointed Preliminary Working Committee, had been bugged by the ICAC for ''a long period of time''.

Mr Tsui was giving evidence on the second day of the Legislative Council hearing on the reasons why he was sacked by ICAC Commissioner Bertrand de Speville.

Mr de Speville had said on Wednesday that he had ''grave doubts'' about Mr Tsui's integrity.

But in giving his side of the story, Mr Tsui also alleged: His boss, operations director Jim Buckle, was preparing a political target list for use after 1997. The ICAC had inflated corruption figures to win more resources.

It had been carrying out political vetting, which was supposed to be a police responsibility.

''Indeed, the ICAC has done the work of the Special Branch. That's true,'' he said.

''For example, [before I was sacked in November] I was investigating Yeung Kai-yin. Jim Buckle found out he had a close relationship with Xinhua. Jim Buckle immediately wrote a report and shortly after that Yeung left the Government.'' Mr Yeung, who resigned in September after 30 years' service and later joined Sino Land, said at the time that he was leaving because it was ''time for a change''.

Last night he said his links with Xinhua officials were a result of his work.

''Since the signing of the Joint Declaration in 1984, can you tell me who in the civil service has not had a close relationship with the Chinese side?'' he said.

Mr Tsui told legislators that as part of the political surveillance, ''Rita Fan's [phones] had been bugged for a long period. That I think is very unfair. This is what happened in 1993, before I was sacked.'' Mrs Fan, removed from the Executive Council in Governor Chris Patten's first Exco reshuffle in 1992, said she was ''surprised to hear that'' and wanted an explanation.

Legislators, who had asked many questions of Mr de Speville, fell silent after Mr Tsui's sensational claims, which included the allegation that Mr Buckle was preparing a list of political targets for use by the British Government after the handover to China.

''He told me that we had to prepare a list of names, a list of targets. The targets will first be those who are involved in corruption,'' he said. ''And later the list should include political targets.

''I said these were highly sensitive. What would happen after 1997? After 1997, these documents would not be in Hong Kong but in Britain. How are these documents going to be used? I am sure he knew that pretty well at the time.'' Mr Tsui said Group G in the operations department was responsible for ''collecting all dirty things'' on the ''targets''. Besides corruption, ''dirty things'' included acts of ''insider dealing'', and ''undesirable or perverse behaviour in private life''.

Mr Tsui claimed that a key reason for his dismissal was the conflict with Mr Buckle over the change in role of the ICAC to include political vetting.

''Our friction caused him to lose trust in me . . . he could not tolerate me taking up such sensitive work.'' However, Mr Tsui said he had not raised objections about the alleged political vetting with Mr de Speville because he had had no opportunity to do so.

''But I told Jim Buckle.

''The Special Branch is scaling down its activities, and the ICAC is continually expanding to reinforce its intelligence service,'' he said.

Mr Tsui claimed the ICAC had inflated the number of corruption complaints it received last year by 44 per cent to justify a large establishment of expatriate officers.

He said he wondered whether police graft had increased as rapidly as the ICAC claimed, and whether many of the cases involved bona fide corruption.

The ICAC needed to maintain a large establishment to be able to maintain a high number of expat officers, Mr Tsui said.

''He [Mr Buckle] told me the ICAC could justify maintaining a high number of expatriate officers when the number of complaints stayed high and the public also had high expectations for the ICAC.'' Mr Buckle asked legislators last November for $1.14 million to create a post for a second deputy director.

Legislators have repeatedly expressed concern about speculation that the ICAC might begin political vetting.

They were concerned that the ICAC would become a ''secret police'' or be given the job of suppressing political dissidents after 1997.

Mr de Speville has said the commission has been carrying out ''integrity checks'' on behalf of the Government since the ICAC was set up.

Last night, Mr de Speville denied Mr Tsui's claims.

''We wish to make it clear that those allegations by Mr Alex Tsui concerning Mr K. Y. Yeung and Mrs Rita Fan are totally without foundation. For the record, we have never undertaken investigations for political purposes,'' he said.

The hearing will resume on April 25.