A gag order could be imposed on Urban Renewal Authority board members and senior staff after a spate of news leaks on authority projects. The proposed order, which itself was leaked to the media yesterday, aims at protecting commercial secrets, the authority says. The policy, to be discussed at an authority board meeting today, was criticised by some board members and critics, with one saying it would make a mockery of democracy. Board members and senior staff will be asked to sign a secrecy agreement if the order is endorsed. The authority hopes it can prevent documents tabled at meetings or details of discussions being leaked to third parties. The authority's management is understood to be annoyed by leaks in recent months about its redevelopment plans, financial position and a plan to co-operate with the Housing Society. In the case of an authority project in Po On Road and Shun Ning Road, Cheung Sha Wan, speculators had started moving in to the area in the hope of winning compensation after leaked news of the redevelopment plan. The plan was leaked to the media before the project was announced in July. Veteran housing critic Virginia Ip Chiu-ping, chief secretary at the People's Council on Housing Policy, yesterday accused the authority of making a mockery of democracy. 'We are talking about a freer flow of information in a democratic society but it seems the authority is choosing to close it up,' she said. Ms Ip, who is a member of the Housing Authority's rental housing committee, added: 'If they appoint me to the authority, they should be prepared that I will leak their documents to the public as my group is supposed to be accountable to the public, not the government.' A member of the authority's board, independent legislator Lau Ping-cheung, said he had not seen any serious breaches in the past. 'Common sense is a good guide to members as to what information can be discussed publicly and what cannot,' Mr Lau said. 'The authority is a public body and members of the public will expect it to be open and transparent.' But board member Chan Kam-lam, a Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong legislator, said: 'Sensitive information should be protected or it would affect the authority's operations. Some people may make use of the information to make money on the markets.' An authority spokesman said: 'The aim of the proposal is to keep good corporate governance. It will not affect any board members who want to express their personal views on the operations of the authority.' He said the authority remained publicly accountable. It was set up last year, with the task of clearing 200 urban slums in nine districts in the next 20 years.