A government official yesterday ducked lawmakers' questions on the selection process to find a successor to Hong Kong Monetary Authority chief executive Joseph Yam Chi-kwong, refusing to disclose whether a candidate had already been picked. But acting Financial Secretary Chan Ka-keung dismissed suggestions that the head of the city's de facto central bank should be recruited through an open selection process, saying this would not be in line with international practice. Professor Chan, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, who was acting for Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, faced legislators' inquiries in a question-and-answer session and in an adjournment debate. He said a section of the Exchange Fund Ordinance provided the financial secretary with clear powers and responsibilities to appoint the Monetary Authority, and draw up the terms of appointment. The financial secretary considered the present arrangement to be appropriate, he said. 'The financial secretary will act in a fair and impartial manner according to law to ensure that the appointee is fit and proper and that the appointment is in the best interests of Hong Kong,' Professor Chan said in reply to a question from Democrat Fred Li Wah-ming on the selection process. Later, he gave a similar answer nine times when lawmakers asked him different questions. Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan asked: 'Is the Chief Executive's Office director [Norman] Chan Tak-lam in fact the only candidate? Are all others just a smokescreen?' Civic Party vice-chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit asked about the government appointing a three-member head-hunting committee, which Mr Tsang disclosed two days after announcing Mr Yam's retirement. 'On what date did the government invite these three persons? Were there any invitation letters?' Independent Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee asked if the government would create a system for the appointment process, while the Civic Party's Tanya Chan asked if the administration had laid down any terms of reference for the head-hunting committee. Professor Chan said in reply to these questions that Mr Tsang was using his appointment power under the law, and that he would conduct the selection fairly. While pan-democrats and some independent legislators said the public had been kept in the dark on the appointment process, government allies defended the practice.