Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing, head of the covert surveillance watchdog, has been forced to stop listening to recordings intercepted in tapping operations after the administration raised doubts over the legitimacy of the practice. The legal queries, which Woo described as 'substantial', came to light in the annual report by the commissioner on interception of communications and surveillance. Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong yesterday said it was the administration which raised the doubts after obtaining legal advice from the Department of Justice. The doubts stemmed from a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada last year that the law did not entitle the privacy commissioner to compel production of documents over which lawyer-client privilege was claimed, even for a limited purpose. Woo said the case had no binding power in Hong Kong, but had posed 'persuasive implications' to his duty when he listened to intercepted recordings involving lawyer-client privileges. 'It may be argued that the power conferred on me by the Interception of Communications and Surveillance Ordinance to carry out my function is not wide enough to entitle me to listen to the recordings,' he said, adding that express, unambiguous words empowering him to do so were missing from the ordinance. He said doubts had also been voiced over whether his listening to intercepted material met the needs of public security or of investigation into serious criminal offences. Woo said he considered his situation was different from the Canadian one and there was a need to listen to the recordings 'to verify that law enforcement agencies had made a full and frank disclosure of information'. He said he would stop listening to the recordings in view of the queries, unless there were serious breaches. Woo added that the difficulty would have to be resolved by legislation. Lee said his bureau was co-operating fully with Woo's office, and was working in the same direction to ensure the law was properly complied with.