YU PUN-HOI, the disgraced former chairman of Ming Pao, may be about to make a comeback. His successor as chairman, Oei Hong Leong, has said he wants to resign by the time of the company's next annual general meeting and that Mr Yu was applying to have his criminal records in Canada expunged. Mr Yu could then return as chairman, subject to the approval of the board and the stock exchange. That is an important proviso. The stock exchange will have to consider very carefully what its approval would signal to others with a less than perfect record. There was a great deal of sympathy for Mr Yu last November when he stepped down as chairman and sold part of his interest in Ming Pao to Mr Oei. Many businessmen felt he was being unfairly persecuted for youthful indiscretions. He had been jailed in Canada in 1979 for offences which included theft, forging cheques and using other people's credit cards to a total of C$4,600. Why pillory him again 15 years later, now that he was back in Hong Kong and a pillar of the publishing world? That sympathy was misplaced. Mr Yu was not being punished for his previous crimes but for failing to reveal them, as required of the directors of listed companies by stock exchange rules. The crucial misdemeanour was committed in Hong Kong and in the 1990s. For the sake of the integrity of the stock exchange Mr Yu had to be censured. By the same token, even if the Canadian records are expunged, there will be those who argue that the stock exchange should be in no hurry to forgive him for misleading his shareholders. Hong Kong's reputation has been further shaken this month by the news that other high-profile businessmen had similarly failed to own up to local convictions - including some of a more serious nature. The exchange cannot afford to give the impression it is soft on rogue directors. In Mr Yu's case, however, it is fair to argue he has taken his punishment. He has spent six months exiled from the board of his own company and lost his reputation in the process. A stock exchange censure need not be a life-sentence.