Resignation of Hong Kong graft-buster kept secret, report reveals
Ricky Yau tells how he controversially quit four days into top job only to change his mind after plea from colleagues
The No 2 at the Independent Commission Against Corruption tendered his resignation just four days after he took over from his demoted yet well-respected predecessor.
In this month’s edition of ICAC Post , the official publication of the graft-buster, Ricky Yau Shu-chun reveals his resignation was also kept an internal secret for nearly three weeks until it was announced in late July.
However Yau changed his mind within hours of the announcement and agreed to stay on as acting head of operations, the organisation’s powerful investigative arm.
His account raises further questions about his relationship with the ICAC commissioner, Simon Peh Yun-lu.
Although Peh had all along asked him to stay on, Yau said he changed his mind only after a lengthy discussion with Operations Department colleagues.
The ICAC is facing unprecedented pressure as newly elected lawmakers vow to investigate its handling of predecessor Rebecca Li Bo-lan, who stepped down after being demoted.
Her departure came amid an ongoing ICAC probe into HK$50 million received by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying from Australian engineering company UGL in 2012-2013.
Pan-democrats believe Leung was involved in the removal of Li, an accusation that both Leung and Peh have denied.
In ICAC Post, Yau admits questions by the public about him succeeding Li were behind his initial decision to resign, which for the first time he said occurred only four days after starting the job on July 7.
“I was of the view that if I took up the post, the Operations Department would be subject to even more public queries, and the credibility of [the ICAC] would be further undermined,” he said. “I made a verbal application to the commissioner for an early resolution of agreement on July 11, and tendered a written application to him the following day.”
That shows his resignation was much earlier than was reported in a July 29 ICAC press release.
Explaining why he finally agreed to stay on, he said he was persuaded by department colleagues – a subtle refusal to acknowledge the role of Peh.
Yau said he met colleagues earlier on July 29 and they expressed fears his departure would deal a severe blow to the ICAC and further shake public confidence.
“Having considered such a genuine plea from my colleagues and the overall interest of the commission, I decided to withdraw my [resignation],” he said.
Newly elected lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, a former ICAC investigator, would not speculate if the ICAC decision to disclose such internal details was a move to pre-empt any action in the legislature.
But he noted: “This shows Peh was unsuccessful in retaining Yau, whose final decision to stay was purely based on support of his department colleagues.”
On Tuesday, Peh sent a letter to 23 pan-democrat lawmakers saying linking the removal of Li to the Leung controversy was “irresponsible rumour-mongering” that amounted to “slandering his personal integrity”.
He also said it was an “accusation that is very serious but without real evidence”, which hurt the reputation of Hong Kong.