Grieving relatives of the 39 people killed in one of Hong Kong's deadliest maritime disasters have accused the government of dragging its feet in the quest to find out who was responsible.
Two days after the partial release of a 430-page internal probe that uncovered "suspected criminality'' and identified misconduct on the part of 17 unnamed Marine Department officials, relatives of those killed in the Lamma ferry tragedy on October 1, 2012, left a meeting with top government officials disappointed.
Relatives want to see the full report. They have been denied that amid Department of Justice concerns the information the report contains could compromise the ongoing criminal prosecution of the captains of the two ferries and possible future criminal proceedings.
After meeting Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung yesterday, the families, who have offered to sign confidentiality agreements in order to see the full report, said they would, as a last resort, back a move to invoke the Legislative Council's special powers to get to the truth.
One relative, who would only give her surname, Chan, said: "I don't want to still be unable to tell the deceased why the ship sank so quickly when I visit their grave in 10 years."
She said she accepted that she would have to wait until after the criminal investigation to see the report. But she added she could not understand why she needed to wait until the end of the disciplinary hearings.
Irene Cheng, whose son died in the tragedy, accused Cheung of failing to keep an earlier promise that the report would not be kept under wraps. "We have already missed the best time to invoke the [special powers] ordinance," she said. "We were too quiet in the beginning.''
The relatives are due to meet Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung on May 15. The families said they would not attend unless Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who represents most of them, and other legal representatives could be with them. To was excluded from the meeting on Thursday where Cheung briefed families on the summary of the report.
Cheung said Director of Public Prosecutions Keith Yeung Kar-hung would attend a Legco meeting on Monday to explain the decision to not disclose the full report.
He reiterated that the release of the full report could pose a risk to criminal investigations.
Yuen said he hoped lawmakers would consider carefully the impact of obtaining the full report through Legco's special powers because the scope of the investigation was wide.