The government is considering allowing lawmakers and the families of victims of the 2012 Lamma ferry disaster to read its internal investigation report on the Marine Department - as long as they sign a confidentiality agreement.
But one bereaved mother reiterated her demand that the report - which severely criticised the department's administration and pointed the finger at misconduct by 17 unnamed officials - should be made public.
The government had ruled out releasing the report, which identified "suspected criminality" by department officials, as it had been handed over to the police and could form the basis of criminal proceedings.
Officials from the Transport and Housing Bureau told the Legislative Council's panel on economic development yesterday that the bureau had been in talks with the Department of Justice and the Civil Service Bureau on the feasibility of allowing lawmakers and relatives of the 39 victims to read the report. They would first have to sign a confidentiality undertaking.
The government would take into account the legal issues involved and "seriously" consider how these issues could be resolved, with the aim of working out a feasible arrangement as early as possible, the bureau said.
Families reacted angrily last week when the government revealed only a summary of the 430-page report's findings.
Lawmakers had proposed invoking Legco's investigative powers to compel the government to release the report. But the House Committee, the body responsible for overseeing Legco business, yesterday voted against a motion by Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok to invoke the Powers and Privileges Ordinance.
Irene Cheng, whose son Thomas Koo Man-cheung, 24, died in the collision between the Lamma IV and Sea Smooth ferries on October 1, 2012, demanded yesterday that the investigation report be released in full. She was against the idea of signing a confidentiality agreement in order to read the details.
"It would be even more painful to me if I were not allowed to voice grievances," she added.
Cheng also insisted that she should be accompanied by a lawyer if she were to read the report. "A lawyer is a more qualified person who will understand the details," she said.
She said she would discuss the matter with other bereaved families but she would not sign any non-disclosure agreement.
Most of the other relatives of the victims still want a full disclosure of the report, according to Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who has been working with the families.
In a statement, he urged the authorities to reconsider the bereaved families' request for the report's release on the grounds of substantial public interest.