Ex-ICAC chief Timothy Tong 'strongly condemned' in pan-dem report

Five lawmakers say former anti-graft chief may have committed misconduct in public office

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 July, 2014, 4:30am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 July, 2014, 5:03am

Pan-democratic lawmakers yesterday came up with an alternative report against former top graft-buster Timothy Tong Hin-ming, alleging that the official one endorsed by their pro-government counterparts sought to "water down" Tong's guilt.

The official select committee report, which was welcomed by Tong, was seen as milder than the earlier Legislative Council report by the Public Accounts Committee. That report, issued last year, gave the strongest condemnation yet of Tong's "deplorable" overspending.

Select committee chairman Ip Kwok-him, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, rejected the pan-democrats' criticism, saying there was no need to "dilute the gravity" of Tong's acts.

But the Civic Party's Dennis Kwok said: "The main report uses mild language to try to dilute the incident. The minority report is needed to truly reflect Hongkongers' views." He added that he was disappointed Ip did not allow the democrats' report to be incorporated into the main one.

In the minority report, the five pan-democrats in the select committee - Kwok, James To Kun-sun, Cyd Ho Sau-lan, Wong Yuk-man and Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong - "strongly condemned" Tong for wrongdoings.

They said Tong may have committed misconduct in public office when he was at the helm of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, from 2007 to 2012. "We understand that the ICAC has already commenced an investigation, and we propose that the ICAC should disclose the investigation results to the public," they said in the report.

It went on to suggest a review of the way the ICAC chief is chosen - with great reliance on the chief executive - to enhance the level of transparency.

Ho, of the Labour Party, said the pro-establishment camp had barred pan-democrats from carrying out further investigations, including summoning lower-level ICAC staff.

Ip, the chairman, disagreed. "This is a committee set up to look into Tong personally," he said.

Tong was found to have "damaged the image and tarnished the reputation of the ICAC" with the extravagant meals for guests, and drinking hard alcohol with mainland officials with whom he possibly had "unduly close contact".

Asked why the committee refused to adopt stronger wording like "condemn", pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun said: "We can't just fulfil some political aspirations by using this word ... Comments have to be based on facts gathered."

She added that they found nothing to justify an inference that Tong had broken the law.