The families of those who died in last year's Lamma ferry disaster filed a police report yesterday alleging Marine Department officials were criminally liable.
They took the action amid frustration over transport officials' refusal to launch a criminal investigation, with one lawmaker telling the transport minister to "shut up".
Legislator James To Kun-sun said they had identified up to eight marine officials they thought could be held criminally responsible for "serious dereliction of duty" in handling inspections of the Lamma IV.
He said they sought the police investigation because they were angry over remarks made by Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung on Monday last week.
Cheung said a criminal investigation would start only if criminal elements were found during the bureau's internal disciplinary investigation.
"Does that mean that Cheung or the government is trying to exert pressure on the police commissioner not to open an investigation?" To asked. "I think he had better shut up."
The collision between the Lamma IV, a Hongkong Electric vessel, and the Sea Smooth ferry on October 1 last year claimed 39 lives. They were on their way to the National Day fireworks.
To said yesterday he believed the police would launch an investigation. He said there were grounds to suspect, from the independent inquiry into the disaster, that the officials identified could be guilty of misconduct in public office or using a false instrument.
"Only two captains of the two vessels have been prosecuted. But we have reasonable grounds, based on the Honourable Justice Michael Lunn's report, that there will be serious dereliction of duty or serious negligence in handling the examination of the vessel from 1995 to 2006," To said.
Irene Cheng, who lost her 24-year-old son in the accident, said all the victims' families had agreed to file the report with police. Cheng also said the Transport and Housing Bureau had not honoured its promise of monthly updates on the progress of its inquiry into the incident.
Cheung said before departing for Beijing yesterday that he would meet the families later this month, noting that the investigation was still under way.
"While we cannot reveal any details about the ongoing investigation, as the secretary for justice said earlier, the government will handle the cases fairly, regardless of the ranks of the officials involved," Cheung said.