Turmoil at Hong Kong’s anti-corruption watchdog turns to farce as chief withdraws resignation

The Independent Commission Against ­Corruption No 2, Ricky Yau Shu-chun, quit then withdrew his resignation within a matter of hours

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 July, 2016, 12:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 July, 2016, 2:09am

Trouble at the top of the Independent Commission Against ­Corruption turned to farce on Friday night as the agency’s No 2 quit then withdrew his resignation within a matter of hours.

At 6.26pm yesterday the commission announced that the acting head of the ICAC’s powerful investigative arm – the Operations Department – Ricky Yau Shu-chun was leaving to be replaced by a returning veteran, Ricky Yu Chun-cheong.

Turmoil at ICAC after principal investigator becomes second departure in days from Hong Kong graft-buster

But just 2-1/2 hours later, at 8.59pm – after what sources describe as a series of “emotional” crisis meetings – the commission released a statement saying Yau had withdrawn his ­resignation “after staff members of the Operations Department ­expressed ­profound wishes for him to ­remain in office and after having considered the overall ­interest of the commission”.

The turmoil followed the ­departure of the ICAC’s first ­female head of operations, Rebecca Li Bo-lan, earlier this month, amid unconfirmed allegations over soft-peddling on a probe into Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and bitter personality clashes in the organisation.

Where to now for the ICAC?

The later statement went on to say: “The commissioner, who all along had requested Yau to stay, approved his withdrawal request. Yau will continue to act as head of operations, while Ricky Yu Chun-cheong will remain as director of investigation (government ­sector), and Ricky Chu Man-kin will be appointed director of investigation (private sector) with effect from August 1, 2016.”

Yesterday also saw the departure of the commission’s chief forensic accountant, Melissa Tang Shuk-nei. Tang’s specialist position was created in 2010. Due to the complex nature of corruption investigations the commission was employing forensic accountants from the private sector at a huge cost. The move gained ­approval and Tang and two others were hired to save money.

Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang issued a statement through her pro-democracy think tank Hong Kong 2020 on Friday, expressing concerns over the series of personnel shake-ups at the ICAC. In the statement, Chan, convener of the group, said she believed the changes were “unusual”.

“It is necessary for ICAC commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu to publicly explain in detail as soon as possible, in order to clear public doubts, rebuild the ICAC’s morale and save the public’s confidence in the commission,” the statement read.