New head of Hong Kong private sector unit at graftbuster says personnel crisis won’t compromise credibility

He also says the ICAC, which has been hit by troubles at the top since the departure of first female operations chief Rebecca Li, will stay impartial amid fears of political interference

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 August, 2016, 5:36pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 2:38pm

The new chief of the graftbuster unit that investigates corruption in the private sector has dismissed fears the personnel crisis at the watchdog will undermine its credibility.

Ricky Chu Man-kin, who took up the post of director of investigation (private sector) yesterday, also reassured the public that “external influence” could play no role in the work of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

Chu also said it was too early to comment on whether staff morale was worse than six years ago when he left the ICAC to head police force watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Council.

Please don’t walk away, Rebecca Li – Hong Kong needs to maintain confidence in the ICAC

His appointment comes as the ICAC is facing a series of troubles at the top. On July 29, the body announced the acting head of its investigative arm – the operations department – was quitting, but then within a matter of hours it announced Ricky Yau Shu-chun had withdrawn his resignation.

This followed the departure of the agency’s first female head of operations, Rebecca Li Bo-lan, last month, amid rumours of soft-pedaling in a probe into a controversial HK$50 million deal between Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Australian engineering firm UGL.

Critics said the crisis was undermining the ICAC’s credibility and even Commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu’s leadership ability . But Chu on Monday said: “I do not think the ICAC’s credibility will be so easily affected because of the personnel affairs. It is because our credibility is built up on 42 years of good work in Hong Kong. For the ICAC colleagues who I have met, be they old, new or retired, they do care much about the ICAC and their caring would encourage all of us to unite to face any challenges.”

Chu did not comment on the ICAC probe into the UGL saga but maintained the agency would not compromise its impartiality and independence. “The core values of the ICAC are the same as the core values of Hong Kong. All the independent probes by the ICAC will not be affected by external influence, I can assure you.

“We shall conduct our investigations in a fair and just manner, in accordance with the law, and based on evidence. I do not believe that the core values of ICAC have even changed,” Chu said.

Peh did not respond to reporters’ questions yesterday.