Was speedy fund approval for Hong Kong cadets linked to favouritism? Home affairs chief denies this
Statutory body granted HK$30 million funding for Hong Kong Army Cadets Association, of which Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah is an honorary adviser
The home affairs minister has denied any conflict of interest in his bureau’s “unusually speedy approval” of funds for a uniformed youth group, of which he is also an honorary adviser.
Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah, formerly a pro-Beijing lawmaker, was speaking for the first time after media revelations on Monday that the Home Affairs Bureau had allowed the Hong Kong Army Cadets Association to turn an old school building in Kowloon Bay into their headquarters in June.
About a week after the approval, the association, founded last year, was granted HK$30 million by the Board of Management of the Chinese Permanent Cemeteries – a statutory body chaired by Lau as home affairs chief – for the project.
Democratic lawmakers – who alleged that the funds approval was “unusually speedy” – and some relatively older uniformed groups had questioned whether the Army Cadets Association was favoured because of connections that go beyond even Lau.
Its commander-in-chief is Regina Leung Tong Ching-yee, the wife of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Leung is also an honorary patron along with People’s Liberation Army Hong Kong garrison head Major General Tan Benhong and central government liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming.
But Lau denied the suggestion of favouritism. “My role in the association is only honorary, I did not take part in its operation. In fact, as home affairs minister, I have honorary roles on dozens of organisations … There was no conflict of interest involved, and the process was absolutely fair,” Lau said.
He added that the old school building was granted to the association “in due process”.
According to Lau, the government informed all uniformed youth groups about the building’s availability earlier this year – three applications were received, and the association was chosen because it was relatively “advantaged in the publicly-announced criteria”.
Lau declined to elaborate on how advantaged it is, saying that it was already explained in his bureau’s press release earlier this week.
“The Board of Management of the Chinese Permanent Cemeteries also approved the funding in due process … and all members of the board were there when the funding was approved,” Lau said.
“The speed of approvals depend on whether the applicants’ applied according to the procedure … and [when the next meeting was held] after the application was received.”
He also said the government attached a great deal of importance on the development of uniformed youth groups and supported every one of them without favouritism or bias.