Legal advice sought over Li Kwan-ha's new job

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 May, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 May, 1995, 12:00am

LEGAL advice is being sought over former police chief Li Kwan-ha who took a job with Cheung Kong Holdings while still being paid $143,000-a-month by the Government.

Civil service rules require that he should have first sought permission from the Government.

Secretary for Civil Service Michael Sze Cho-cheung said yesterday he was drafting a letter to Mr Li asking for an explanation and would be seeking legal advice on the matter.

'We need to deal with our colleague directly, not his employer. We will officially send him a letter.

'We are determined to clarify this case because it involves the interest of the public,' he said.

'We will ask him to give us a full explanation.' Cheung Kong chairman Li Ka-shing defended his employment of the former police chief, saying they had been friends for many years and Mr Li's 'personal qualities' would be useful in the business sector.

Li Ka-shing said yesterday: 'There is no special relationship between my business and the police. My business has no need for police [contacts].

'If I were in the nightclub or other highly sensitive businesses, I might need the police. But I am not.

'I think many people have made too big a deal out of the job. Look, this man is only 50 something. Although he has retired, he is still very energetic and can do a lot of things.

'He is only employed as a consultant and works on overseas projects. He will not do anything in Hong Kong. He has his own talents which are useful to us, so we hired him,' Mr Li said.

The tycoon said the Government had never raised any questions with him about the job.

'This is a free society and one governed by the rule of law. It is not unusual to hire a consultant. Why does the Government need to ask me whom I have employed?' Governor Chris Patten said officials were taking the issue very seriously.

'It is imperative to do everything possible to maintain the confidence of the community' in arrangements for civil servants who retire, he said.

Because Mr Li Kwan-ha is on pre-retirement leave until July and is still being paid his monthly salary, he is required to follow Civil Service Regulations in seeking employment.

Mr Li failed to seek permission from Mr Sze, and now faces the prospect of having his pension entitlements stripped. He began working for Cheung Kong in July last year, when he went on pre-retirement leave.

The regulations indicate that a civil servant's 'pension or allowance can be suspended if, within two years of his retirement, or such longer period as determined by the Governor, without the prior permission of the Governor in writing . . . becomes an employee'.

This will occur 'if the principal part of such business or of the business of such partnership or company or of his employment is, in the opinion of the Governor, carried on in Hong Kong'.

Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang said: 'The administration feels that first of all, we need to know what this post is.' She said the principle was that civil servants should not put the firm they took a job with in a more advantageous position than others because of their experience and knowledge.

A former secretary for transport, Yeung Kai-yin, who left the Government in October 1993 and was given permission to accept a job with Sino Land, said: 'A rule is a rule. The burden of the rule is on an officer to satisfy the Government that what he is doing in the private sector does not involve any conflict of interest.'