Hong Kong's graft watchdog was quick to distance itself from fired China Resources boss Song Lin, erasing from its website references to his role as head of its ethics committee.
Bosses at the Independent Commission Against Corruption held talks within hours of Thursday's announcement by the mainland's top anti-graft body that it was investigating the Shanghai-born businessman. They decided on Friday morning to scrub all references to Song from the ICAC website.
But this prompted concerns about the ICAC's transparency.
Song was listed on the website as chairman of its ethics development advisory committee.
He also featured in a 56- second video in which he spoke about the importance of "ethical business practice and good corporate governance".
Song is under investigation by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection for his actions as chairman of China Resources Holdings, a state-owned group operating on the mainland and in Hong Kong.
"In view of the latest development, we have to discuss with the chambers [of commerce], and they will likely appoint a new chairman," an ICAC spokeswoman said last night.
David Webb, a corporate-governance activist, condemned the move. "The ICAC should have made a public press release stating what happened to his position, rather than just amending the website.
"It's not the most transparent way to handle it," he said, adding that the ICAC "should behave like a listed company behaves when a listed director resigns" by make an official statement.
Song also serves on the government's economic development commission. He was appointed to a two-year term by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in January last year.
Last night, asked if Song would be removed from the body, a government spokesman said: "The chief executive will keep an eye on the development and consider related factors."
The ethics development advisory committee directs the work of the ethics development centre, a non-profit body set up by the ICAC's community relations department. Its members represent six chambers of commerce. Song represented the Hong Kong Chinese Enterprises Association.
Formed in 1995, the centre's main goal is to "promote business ethics on a long-term basis", according to the website.
On the China Resources website three weeks ago, Song wrote about plans to conduct a "comprehensive evaluation" of the company's top leaders that would focus heavily on the "moral conduct" of senior executives.
THREE-DECADE CAREER ENDS
The firing of China Resources boss Song Lin yesterday brought to an end a career spanning three decades at one of the mainland's largest companies. Starting as an intern measuring oil deposits, he rose to general manager over the following 19 years. Four years later, at the age of 45, Song was named chairman, the highest position in a company with HK$1.13 trillion in assets.
Born in Rushan county, Shandong province, Song graduated from Tongji University with a bachelor's degree in solid mechanics.
Song participated in the most critical transition periods at China Resources, as it evolved from a foreign-trade-focused company to an industrial corporation. He also witnessed its capital expansion. Under the wing of Ning Gaoning, the company's general manager at the time, Song was promoted to vice-chairman and managing director of China Resources Enterprise in 2001, with the task of boosting its perpetually low share price. Since then, he has headed four of China Resources five listed subsidiaries.
Keira Lu Huang