Hong Kong's graft laws apply to Zhu Rongji's son and other members of new body
Body's status as a company had caused concern; members include five influential mainlanders
Enoch Yiu, Dennis Chong and Peggy Sito
The son of former premier Zhu Rongji and other financial heavyweights appointed to the new Financial Services Development Council will be subject to the city's anti-corruption laws as if they were public officials.
A government spokesman said yesterday the 22-member council, which includes five influential mainlanders, would be treated as a "public body" as defined in the anti-corruption ordinance and all members would be treated as "public officers" subject to the scrutiny of the law.
Legislator James To Kun-sun had voiced concerns that the council, set up on Thursday, may escape the scrutiny usually given public bodies and its members because it is registered as a private company and may receive private donations to finance its operations.
Analysts said setting up the council as a private company was a way to fast-track it.
If it was set up as a statutory body, it might take years to receive lawmakers' approval, they said.
Its status as a private company means the council has no power to set policy or introduce fees, so it may have to rely on donations. It is also not qualified to negotiate with mainland and overseas governments.
"If the council has no power and cannot lobby other governments, how can it help to promote the local financial industry?" asked Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, legislator for the financial services sector.
Besides the council, the government also appointed heavyweights to the Economic Development Commission to set overall strategy for Hong Kong's further economic growth. This commission includes Alan Tung Lieh-sing, the son of former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa and executive director of Orient Overseas (International), and Kerry Logistics' chairman George Yeo Yong Boon, a vice-chairman of Kerry Group, controlling shareholder of SCMP Group, which publishes this newspaper.
"All of us who live here want to see Hong Kong do well," said Yeo, Singapore's minister for trade and industry from 1999 to 2004. "Singapore and Hong Kong share much in common, and each has much to learn from the other … Singapore also has a more interventionist government because of historical reasons and the fact that it is an independent city state, while Hong Kong has all the advantages and disadvantages of 'one country, two systems'."
The new council's chairwoman, Laura Cha Shih May-lung, said on a radio show that its work would not overlap with that of regulators such as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. "We do not only focus on the securities and banking business but we also look at insurance, fund management, private equity and hedge funds," she said.
Cha denied the council was dominated by mainlanders, saying it also had 12 local and five overseas members.