Mak Chai-kwong

Credibility crisis engulfs Leung

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 July, 2012, 12:00am


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After less than two weeks in office, Leung Chun-ying has lost a minister and seen his administration engulfed in several governance crises.

Political parties and academics said yesterday's resignation of secretary for development Mak Chai-kwong, over the possible abuse of a civil service rent-subsidy scheme, had weakened the administration's credibility and ability to rule.

The chief executive still faces questions over illegal structures found at both his own house on The Peak and the home of health chief Dr Ko Wing-man.

Now a media report has raised questions about tax evasion involving Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung. Human rights groups have criticised Lam Woon-kwong's decision to serve as both Executive Council convenor and chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, citing the potential for conflicts of interest.

Chinese University political scientist Dr Ma Ngok said Mak's case had dealt a big blow to the government's image and ability to deliver policy. 'Mak quit because of a possible criminal offence, which is unprecedented since the handover. People will ask if this government has made sensible judgments in picking ministers - especially after [Chief Secretary] Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor expressed full confidence in him,' said Ma.

Four days before Mak resigned, Lam said 'I have no doubts about his integrity.'

Ma said: 'Because the development chief is involved in housing planning, that policy could stagnate since I do not think Leung can find a replacement before his policy address [in the autumn]. The government is losing its authority, so trying to implement controversial policies would be impractical.'

Pan-democrats called Mak's case a question of integrity. Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said: 'As far as we know, Mak has quite a good reputation in the civil service. It is a serious matter that he faces an investigation.'

People Power lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip believed Mak's departure had dealt a severe blow to the authority of Leung's administration. 'Leung has too many enemies and too few friends, which is shaking the governance of Hong Kong,' he said.

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said Leung must thoroughly explain the illegal structures at his home: 'If he fails to convince the public, resigning is the only way out.'

On the pro-government side, Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin said Mak's case 'is definitely not good for the [government's] image and has dealt a serious blow to its authority'.

Lawmaker Lam Tai-fai, who supported Leung's rival Henry Tang Ying-yen in the chief executive election, called Mak's case inglorious. 'But from a positive point of view, it shows the efficiency and fairness of the ICAC,' he said.

Short tenure

July 1, 2012 Mak Chai-kwong appointed development secretary.

July 5 Mak denies an Apple Daily report that he and another bureaucrat 'cross-leased' flats to each other, while receiving a government rent subsidy, for 27 months between 1986 and 1988. He insists he did not break any rules.

July 5 Democratic Party lodges a complaint against Mak with the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

July 6 Mak tells a radio programme that the civil servant with whom he 'cross-leased' properties was Tsang King-man, currently the assistant director of the Highways Department.

July 7 Property documents reveal Mak and Tsang authorised each other to sell their properties, raising suspicions that Mak was the actual owner of Tsang's flat, not a tenant.

July 8 Mak promises to give a public explanation of his use of the rent subsidy scheme.

July 11 Mak reneges on his promised statement, saying a potential investigation into the matter barred him from doing so.

July 12 Mak resigns as secretary for development and is arrested by the ICAC for allegedly violating the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, related to his claims for the subsidy.