Citic Pacific managing director Henry Fan Hung-ling took leave of absence from the Executive Council yesterday with immediate effect and for an indefinite period, in a move that could relieve some of the pressure on him to resign. He also stepped aside as chairman of the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority. The decision, announced last night by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, came amid questions about Mr Fan's suitability to continue as an executive councillor after his troubled company delayed for six weeks an announcement about massive losses in foreignexchange dealings. Both the Securities and Futures Commission and Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing have launched investigations. Mr Tsang's statement last night said he had received a written request from Mr Fan yesterday to take leave of absence from the two positions. His request had been approved with immediate effect. It did not say how long Mr Fan's leave would last, and neither the SFC nor HKEx indicated how long their investigations would last. On Wednesday, Mr Fan took leave of absence from his roles in the SFC and HKEx to avoid a perceived conflict of interest. Amid increasing political pressure for him to step down from Exco on Thursday, Mr Fan said he would resign from all his public roles if the investigations cast doubt on his integrity, but he would resume his roles if his integrity was deemed to be beyond reproof. Democratic Party member Cheung Man-kwong said it was unlikely Mr Fan would return to Exco because Mr Tsang would probably have reshuffled his cabinet by then. Chinese University political analyst Ivan Choy Chi-keung said Mr Fan's move 'could save him from embarrassment ... Otherwise, the pressure on him [to quit] would increase'. However, he added that Mr Fan should resign. 'It is not only a matter of integrity, but also a matter of ability. There should be no excuse for a person in his senior position not being aware of Citic Pacific's financial condition,' he said. Politicians from across the board welcomed the move, but some called for a full resignation. Newly appointed Exco member and vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong Lau Kong-wah said Mr Fan had made the appropriate decision. 'He has already said that if investigations find against him, he will step down completely, so the fact that he has only taken leave shows he feels he is innocent,' Mr Lau said, adding that Mr Fan was right to stay away for now to avoid embarrassment. Mr Lau stopped short of saying he would fully support Mr Fan in taking up his posts again if he was cleared of wrongdoing. 'Much will depend on what is revealed from the investigation,' he said. 'None of us knows what really went on at Citic Pacific.' The Frontier legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing called for Mr Fan to 'make a clean break', saying it would not look good for the government to allow him to return to office just because the investigations were over. The Democratic Party still intends to petition the financial secretary to initiate a broader investigation into the management of the company, and will hold a meeting for affected Citic shareholders tomorrow.