A top adviser to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who oversees appointments to advisory and statutory bodies, yesterday resigned from a hospital board amid concerns over conflicting interests.
Human resources expert Sophia Kao Ching-chi was in November controversially recruited to the Central Policy Unit to recommend government appointments. But further questions were raised this week when it was reported that Kao had in April been appointed by the Hospital Authority as a governing committee member at the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan.
Kao yesterday said she had quit the committee with immediate effect, citing "public concerns". Authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk accepted her resignation last night.
Kao said she had quit all public posts after becoming a government employee in the unit last year, but she accepted the authority's appointment as she believed there would be no conflict of interest between her roles.
A spokesman for the unit said Kao accepted the hospital board appointment "in [her] personal capacity" and "with a heart for public service".
According to the authority, there are 38 hospital governing committees, which monitor public hospitals' operational and financial performance. The committees also receive regular reports from the hospitals' chief executives.
Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kwok Ka-ki said conflicts of interest existed between Kao's roles on the hospital board and in the unit. "She has the power to influence vital appointments in the authority, and that would add significant weight to what she says on a hospital board," he said.
"It's unbelievable the authority made the appointment, which was then accepted by Kao and her superiors in the unit."
Kwok added that it was "very rare" for officials to accept non-statutory appointments in public bodies. "If Kao fails to see the conflict between the roles, I have to cast serious doubt on her ability to carry on overseeing government appointments," he said.
Kao's role in the unit had been under public scrutiny in the past months, as critics feared she would be able to block appointments of those not close to Leung's camp. The chief executive has insisted the role would improve the co-ordination of government appointments.