Pro-CY 'think tank' plan in limbo
United Foundation's research said to be on hold amid a probe into its co-founder Barry Cheung
A pro-government organisation's plan to unveil itself as a think tank is believed to have been derailed after one of its founding members, Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, came under police investigation over his failed Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange.
The Hong Kong United Foundation was set up by Cheung and other top campaign advisers to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, including former Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Raymond Tang Yee-bong.
The foundation was registered as a limited company in July last year, shortly after Leung took office. It was originally preparing to do long-term policy research and organise community activities from July, when it would have been in operation a year.
A source familiar with the foundation's work suggested it would put these plans "on hold because Cheung does not have time to handle them", and would focus instead on its pilot project, Speak Out HK. A dozen of Leung's allies have been using the platform to publish online articles since January.
By last month, the Speak Out HK Facebook page had attracted 600,000 clicks from 160,000 users.
The source said contributions to the project had not been affected since the controversy surrounding Cheung broke.
"We have writers contributing on a routine basis, and at least five or six other contributions a week," he said.
"So we will keep publishing articles every weekday and even on Saturdays."
But plans to study government policies looked uncertain, since the foundation had only six full-time staff members and was short of researchers, he said. But the HKMEx collapse had made "little impact" on the morale of the foundation, he added.
"We are not worried about our jobs … We are more worried about what would happen to the administration."
Another source, who is involved in the operation of the foundation, declined to say if Cheung had given instructions about its future work since Saturday, when he surrendered HKMEx's trading licence.
When asked whether the foundation had been left "in limbo", she said "it wouldn't happen … it is not a one-man business, and there is communication between Barry and [us]".
On Friday, Cheung stepped down from all his public posts, including those as an executive councillor and chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority.
Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang called on Leung to say if he knew Cheung was in financial difficulty when he re-appointed him URA chairman less than two months ago.