The prosecution policy published by the Department of Justice is a model of fair play, independence, adherence to legal principles and respect for the rule of law. Prosecutions, it says, are not to be brought unless there is sufficient evidence and they must be in the public interest. The decision, for which the secretary for justice is ultimately responsible, is to be taken objectively and without any interference. The need to abide by these principles is all the more important when the person in jeopardy of ending up in the dock is a former government minister. This is certainly true of the case of former finance chief Antony Leung Kam-chung. For more than four months, prosecutors have been considering whether or not Mr Leung should face trial for alleged misconduct in public office. The so-called Cargate case arises from his controversial purchase of a Lexus car ahead of announcing vehicle tax increases in the budget. From a political perspective, the decision is a highly sensitive one. No doubt, government lawyers want to exercise the greatest care when weighing up relevant considerations. Nevertheless, the decision has been a long time coming. Our report today suggests a possible reason for the delay. It seems that opinions have been sought from five barristers from outside the Department of Justice, four favouring prosecution and the other undecided. Seeking an independent opinion in such a case is a sensible approach. It adds to the perception that the decision has been made objectively and independently, just as the prosecution policy says it should. However, it is unusual to seek so many views from outside. If they are sought, it would be reasonable to expect the majority opinion would be respected. There are a number of reasons why several different lawyers might be approached. Perhaps the department regards the case as particularly difficult and wants to take on board as many views as possible. Perhaps it accepts the conclusions reached, but disagrees with the legal basis upon which they were made. Whatever the motivation, however, the opinion-shopping exercise threatens to undermine the whole process. It gives rise to the suspicion that the department does not intend to prosecute Mr Leung and is searching for a legal opinion to support this position, one that would help sell the decision to a sceptical public. Such an approach would defeat the very purpose of seeking independent advice. We do not yet know what the final decision will be or how the decision, whatever it is, will be justified. But Hong Kong's reputation as a city that abides by the rule of law is at stake. The matter must be handled in an exemplary fashion. We cannot afford another bungled affair reminiscent of the decision not to prosecute publishing tycoon Sally Aw Sian in 1998. The government's commitment to the spirit of the law has been questioned many times since the handover. Several such concerns have been raised in recent months, with regard to its handling of harbour reclamation projects, the West Kowloon cultural project and, as we report today, the sale of Home Ownership Scheme houses. But this is nothing compared with the damage that would result from the slightest suggestion that a former government minister was allowed to escape justice thanks to preferential treatment. It would strike a body blow to our claim to be a city in which everyone is equal before the law. This does not mean that Mr Leung must be prosecuted, only that the decision must be clearly based on sound legal principles. The rule of law is one of Hong Kong's greatest assets. Respecting it is all that should matter when considering whether to prosecute Mr Leung.