There have been many times when my friends from the mainland who now live in Hong Kong have said what they value most about Hong Kong is the rule of law. They have said that they appreciated the fact that the law here applies to everyone. There is not a law for the rich and powerful, and another for ordinary folks. They treasure the fact that in Hong Kong, everyone follows the same set of public rules. While Hong Kong is not perfect, it is a more fair society. The decision of the Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie not to prosecute publisher Sally Aw Sian over an alleged fraud to inflate circulation figures has created much disquiet about the justice system here. Over the past few days, people from all walks of life to whom I have talked, from lawyers to taxi drivers to business people, found it inexplicable that three of Ms Aw's employees are being prosecuted for conspiracy to defraud with an identified fourth person, namely Ms Aw, and yet the boss is not being prosecuted. The public outcry forced Ms Leung to put out a statement. It said that her guiding principles were 'whether the evidence is sufficient to justify a prosecution, and if it is, whether it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution'. This is interesting because there was clearly sufficient evidence to prosecute three of Ms Aw's employees and to name her as a co-conspirator, and yet Ms Leung decided to not prosecute. The second leg of the guiding principles is whether it is in the public interest to prosecute. Again, Ms Leung clearly decided it was in the public interest to prosecute the employees but, for some reason, not the employer. Ms Leung was forced to state that in considering the public interest point, she did not consider personal connection or the political status of Ms Aw. This is a talking point because Ms Aw is a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the mainland's highest united front apparatus. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa was a former board member of Ms Aw's publishing business. The statement then went on to say that: 'It by no means follows that those identified in any alleged conspiracy offence are necessarily charged. This depends . . . on the particular circumstances of the case.' While this is undoubtedly true, the co-conspirator is the employer, not another employee or a third interested party. In a different case, it may be possible for another co-conspirator to turn prosecution witness but it would be highly unusual for the employer to do so. As Ms Aw has been named a co-conspirator, although is not being prosecuted, she is of course likely to be called to give evidence during the trial. All fun and games no doubt. There have also been rumours that there has been internal disagreement between the Secretary for Justice and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Grenville Cross, on the decision not to prosecute Ms Aw. Not surprisingly Ms Leung denied that there had been an internal rift, but she reportedly said: 'Legal advice always differs, this does not mean that we have disagreements.' This is again interesting. Was she acknowledging that there had been disagreements? It would seem so. Legal advice may differ, but it does not always differ. If the evidence is there for a prosecution, then what may have differed is not the law or the evidence but whether to prosecute on some as yet undefined 'public interest' ground. It remains intriguing what that public interest ground may be. Whatever it is, Ms Leung's decision has stirred up doubt about the integrity of the whole justice system in Hong Kong and she now has a duty to dispel that by coming forward with an explanation.