Patten to offer bugging defence

GOVERNOR Chris Patten is examining ways to defend his administration over the ICAC bugging before the Legislative Council, but may stop short of saying he personally authorises each phone tap.

Mr Patten is keen to offset concern following last week's testimony from sacked Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) deputy operations director Alex Tsui Ka-kit.

Mr Tsui said the ICAC was monitoring a political ''target list'' of prominent Hong Kong people and bugged former Executive Councillor Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai and former Treasury Secretary Yeung Kai-yin.

Mr Patten has denied the allegations, but tomorrow he may go further, explaining that he demands proof that it is in the public interest for a corruption-related bug to be placed.

Under Section 33 of the Telecommunications Ordinance, Mr Patten can delegate the power of authorising a phone tap but it is understood it is rarely used.

The section will be examined by the new review committee into the powers and accountability of the ICAC.

It has emerged that the ICAC will be effectively powerless to control private submissions from its officers to the review, even though an officer could be breaching internal orders with unauthorised statements.