A peculiar state of affairs

LAST week, we disclosed that a Hong Kong barrister was taking court action in the United States alleging the Castle Peak Power Company (CAPCO) sacked him from an inquest for wishing to present what he claimed were secret reports on an explosion which killed two men.

This week, we report on Michael Ford's plight in attempting to fight an injunction. It not only forbids him from disclosing that information, but also stops him briefing his lawyer to fight his case through the territory's courts.

It is, to say the least, a peculiar state of affairs.

The injunction, applied for last month by China Light and Power, part owner with Exxon of CAPCO, prevents Mr Ford revealing anything he discovered while acting as its counsel at the inquest hearing.

Engineers Wong Kwong-yu and Yip Ka-pui died during an explosion at the Castle Peak power plant in August 1992. A verdict that their deaths were accidental was recorded. But since our story the coroner, Warner Banks, has ask ed the Attorney-General to re-open the hearing.

China Light and Power sought the Supreme Court injunction to prevent Mr Ford disclosing instructions, documents, reports or plans provided to him while he represented the company. It also called on him to be restrained from revealing his written or oral opinion or advice, from the time he was engaged to the present day.

His solicitor, Neville Watkins, will appear in a chambers hearing tomorrow to try to have the injunction relaxed, at least in so far as it will allow him to seek instructions from his client.

This would seem to be a most reasonable request.

Meanwhile, China Light and Power yesterday underscored the urgent need for a new hearing into all the circumstances surrounding this strange case. The company said it would refuse to hand over the contents of internal reports on the explosion, even if a fresh inquest was opened and the coroner called on them to do so.

Should China Light and Power continue to maintain this position, it can only be left to the public to wonder why.