Call for Executive Council members to declare liabilities as well as assets
Lawmakers want the Executive Council's declaration-of-interest system to include its members' liabilities as well as assets, amid the controversy over Exco member Barry Cheung Chun-yuen and his failed Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange.
They say Exco members should declare how much money they have borrowed from whom, if the amount is large.
They made the remarks after the exchange, chaired by Cheung, handed back its trading licence to the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) last week. Only two years after it was established, its trading revenue was not sufficient to support its operating expenses with thin trading in gold futures.
Reports have suggested that Cheung borrowed huge sums of money, including from a property tycoon, to save the struggling commodity exchange, raising suspicion of collusion among tycoons. Cheung fended off these claims in a statement on Sunday.
Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said there was a need for Exco members to declare their liabilities. "They can be compromised to offer confidential government information in exchange for loans."
Democratic Party legislator Albert Ho Chun-yan said Exco members should reveal details of large loan amounts.
At present, Exco members have to declare remunerated directorships in public or private companies and land and property in or outside Hong Kong.
Exco member Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung said it was not necessary to tighten the rules on declaration of interest.
"It is a usual business practice for companies to have liabilities, and a declaration of liabilities for Exco members would make the system too complicated," he said.
Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, the Legco member who represents brokers, said the SFC had adopted double standards in handling the HKMEx closure.
"In my 30 years' experience as a broker I have never seen the SFC allow a broker with financial problems to simply surrender its licence like it did with the HKMEx. We have to ask why the SFC gave the HKMEx and its chairman Barry Cheung such privileged treatment."
The HKMEx settled all 181 outstanding contracts yesterday.
A spokesman for New World Development said its chairman, Henry Cheng Kar-shun, and the group had never had any financial dealing with Cheung. It said its link with the Urban Renewal Authority was strictly business.
The URA said Cheung - its chairman - always observed its declaration-of-interest system.
An Exco spokesman said Exco's regular Tuesday meeting would not take place today because "there is nothing on the agenda". It had nothing to do with the controversy surrounding Cheung, the spokesman said.