Corporate crusader David Webb exposes 'secrets' in fight against director rule
Joyce Ng and Stuart Lau
Corporate governance advocate David Webb on Tuesday published an online index of identity card numbers of more than 1,100 people - including some of the city's billionaires - to campaign against a government proposal to restrict access to the personal data of company directors.
The launching of the list - which included the two sons of tycoon Li Ka-shing, Victor Li Tzar-kuoi and Richard Li Tzar-kai, as well as Sun Hung Kai Properties chairman Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Webb himself - was "to prove that this is not in any way a secret".
"ID numbers ... are just more accurate identifiers than names. They tell you virtually nothing about a person - they are identifiers, not personal data," he said, adding that full ID was important for the public and regulators to check directors for any conflict of interest and disciplinary matters.
The index was compiled with online sources other than the Companies Registry, including filings made by Hong Kong issuers with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the Government Gazette, notices of wanted persons from the Independent Commission Against Corruption, and listed company websites. They are attached to the index.
Journalists and lawyers are fighting a proposal in a new Companies Ordinance that would withhold the home addresses and full IDs of more than 1 million company directors registered in the city.
Only four digits of the ID would be shown. The public can now get the data by paying a fee.
The government said in 2009 that disclosure of the 4 ID digits would not help identify a person as "there are cases of persons with the same name having similar ID card numbers".
It now claims that they are enough and personal privacy should be protected.
Barrister-lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit said he did not see any legal liability from Webb's list because the information was readily available in the public domain.