Leung disclosure row shows urgent need to bring in archives legislation
On Saturday, Leung Chun-ying called for the government to release all documents relating to his non-declaration of interest in the West Kowloon design contest. Having regard to the accusation of the government's lack of neutrality, the administration must release all documents relating to the contest.
However, if they are released, the documents will have a serious defect, namely, the lack of integrity and reliability of the records.
The unreliability of government records is a consequence of an unreliable system of record-keeping because Hong Kong has no archival law.
For the past three years, the Archives Action Group has been calling for such legislation. The government has a public obligation (for good governance and accountability, for our heritage and for efficiency) to pass an archives law. There has been wide coverage on the need for this law in the South China Morning Post, and in the Chinese press. However, the government has resisted calls for the legislation.
The archives system was within the portfolio of Henry Tang Ying-yen when he was chief secretary but the director of administration, answerable to Mr Tang, made it very clear there was no need for this law.
The election for chief executive has highlighted the importance of looking at past events.
Reliable and complete contemporaneous documents are vital to enable people to judge the candidates' track record and decide if they have the qualities needed to be chief executive.
We have in Hong Kong three unreliable factors.
We have unreliable government records which lack integrity. This is because they are created and managed under an unreliable and non-professional record-keeping system with no statutory foundation. And we have unreliable government officials whose integrity, reliability and neutrality are often called into question. They are not democratically elected and operate under a non-transparent system.
The government has done a great disservice to the people of Hong Kong by not enacting an archives law.
It is time for the public to tell the administration that we can no longer tolerate a system where we have unreliable government records. Hong Kong must have archives legislation in 2012.
William Waung, Archives Action Group