Godfrey case highlights law shortfall

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 July, 2011, 12:00am


Many of those involved in the Jeremy Godfrey whistleblower affair could have been held in breach of the law if Hong Kong had legislation covering archives, a retired judge said.

Destruction of records - or making sure there were none - would be an offence under such a law as in other jurisdictions, Chua Fi-lan said.

Chua, a member of the Archives Action Group, was speaking as members of the group gathered to review their efforts to have a public records ordinance introduced in the city.

'The government says its present system works well. I think the Godfrey case shows why an archives law is urgently needed,' she said.

Godfrey, the government's former information technology chief, alleged political pressure from above - including from Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah - in influencing selection of a group to run a taxpayer-funded internet scheme for poor families.

The archives group's draft Public Records Bill, described as 'an ordinance to establish the Government Archives and Records Authority and make provisions for the proper management of public archives and records', received a lukewarm official response when it appeared last year.

Chua said Godfrey noted that he was told by Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Elizabeth Tse Man-yee, that 'he should set out his thinking in hard copy to hand to her, rather than in an e-mail, so that there would be no record of the conversation on file.'

There was also a 'considerable lack of documents from Tsang, apart from one handwritten memo, and no memos to explain the process of arriving at his decision.'

'If full documents were created and kept, it would have provided the best evidence to refute or support what Godfrey alleged,' Chua said.

Deputy Director of Administration Helen Tang told the group recently that the government was 'not against legislation in principle, but rather concerned with prioritising resources, to focus and move forward on electronic records and to assess the application of the guidelines before considering legislation.'