The graft-buster and a string of headline grabbers

A series of high-profile complaints is fuelling debate on whether the ICAC has been politicised

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 August, 2013, 4:27am

It all started when former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was accused of accepting favours from tycoon friends.

News of the scandal was all over the media, and in February last year, members of the League of Social Democrats filed a formal complaint against Tsang to the Independent Commission Against Corruption. The graft-buster is still working on the case.

Since then, a number of senior officials and prominent politicians caught up in allegations of corruption have been subjected to the same treatment.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's controversial remarks this month - that two of his allies who quit the Executive Council deserved apologies from their accusers - are just the latest development in a debate on whether the ICAC has been politicised.

The trend of political groups following up news of scandals with high-profile complaints, delivered in person to the ICAC headquarters in front of the cameras, began well before trouble struck then Exco members Franklin Lam Fan-keung and Barry Cheung Chun-yuen. Similarly embattled officials include Leung himself, former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen and former development minister Mak Chai-kwong.

Leung made his remarks in Tin Shui Wai on August 11, after the graft-buster decided, because of insufficient evidence, not to charge either Lam or Cheung.

The next day, former ICAC deputy commissioner Tony Kwok Man-wai, who canvassed for Leung in his election campaign last year, defended his stance, describing the high-profile complaints as "public trials".

Michael Sze Cho-cheung, chairman of the ICAC operations review committee, weighed in on August 13, saying the agency had proper vetting procedures in place against false complaints. "Even indiscriminate complaints are better than [the public] making no complaints," he said.

Sze's response was challenged by Exco member Cheung Chi-kong, a close ally of Leung. In a newspaper commentary on Tuesday, Cheung accused Sze of "encouraging" indiscriminate complaints to the ICAC and expressed worries that the agency would be overloaded with cases.

On Wednesday, an association that represents about 110 former ICAC officers issued its first public statement since its founding in 2002, urging the public to support the work of the agency.

Association chairman Ricky Hui Kar-man said he was worried the recent developments would tarnish the graft-buster's reputation for being impartial.

Yesterday's remarks by former ICAC deputy commissioner and head of operations Daniel Li Ming-chak will likely keep debate on the ICAC's credibility alive.