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Chairman of Independent Review Committee for the Prevention and Handling of Potential Conflicts of Interests speaks to the media (with photo)

The following is issued on behalf of the Independent Review Committee for the Prevention and Handling of Potential Conflicts of Interests:

     The Independent Review Committee for the Prevention and Handling of Potential Conflicts of Interests (the Committee) convened its first meeting this morning (March 5). Following is the transcript of remarks (English portion) by the Chairman of the Committee, Mr Andrew Kwok-nang Li, after the meeting:

Chairman: The Committee already started work last week and we held our first meeting this morning. We are operating under a tight time schedule. We have to submit our report by the end of May.

     Indeed, I think the Hong Kong community would like to know as soon as possible our conclusion as to how the system can be improved. We have to review the present system of the Chief Executive, unofficial members of the Executive Council and politically appointed officials of how they prevent and handle potential conflicts of interest. We will study very carefully the existing system, to see if there exist any inadequacies and how the present system could be improved. During the course of our work we will study the system for the civil service as well as some public institutions. We will also draw reference from the position in various overseas jurisdictions.

     We appreciate that this subject is of widespread concern to the citizens of Hong Kong, so we will be inviting views from the public. We will be inviting the public to submit views in writing to us by about the middle of April. We will issue this invitation through advertisements and on our website as soon as practicable. At the same time, we appreciate that some citizens may wish to express their views in person, so we will hold a public forum in about mid-April.

     A clean government is a core value of our society. The public offices with which our Committee is concerned are high public offices and its holders are our political leaders. Indeed, the Chief Executive is the head of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It is of crucial importance for the public to have full confidence in the system. We need a good system. It is only with a good system that we can uphold the dignity and the honour of these high public offices, so my colleagues and I will do our very best to come up with conclusions for improvements to the present system. Thank you.

Reporter: How can you convince the public that the work of the Committee will be fair, open and impartial? Because after all, you are invited by the Chief Executive to head the Committee, and you are allegedly "good friends"?

Chairman: First of all, you refer to "good friends". I don't know where you have got this from. Friendship has nothing to do with this. We are an independent committee. We operate independently. Our responsibility is to review the present system and suggest improvements to the present system. Ultimately, whether we have discharged our responsibility effectively, citizens would have to judge not at this stage but when we come up with our report.

Reporter: How often will the Committee meet? After the meetings, will you talk to the press? Also, what is your order of business?

Chairman: We have a number of meetings lined up. I can't tell you at this stage how many meetings are necessary. We would hold whatever number of meetings as necessary to discharge our responsibility thoroughly. As to whether after each meeting I have the pleasure of meeting with you again, I would make a plea to you - let us do our work. Have some confidence that we will go by our work thoroughly and impartially. In order to do our work of studying the present system, ascertaining its inadequacies and coming to suggestions for improvements, we need the time to work and think. I cannot give you or the public a running commentary as to what documents are read today, and tomorrow what documents are read, and the day after, what my thinking is. So leave the Committee alone to do its work. It won't be long - we are talking about 12 weeks. I am very conscious that the public of Hong Kong would like to know as soon as practicable our conclusions as to the inadequacies of the present system and the suggestions for improvement.

Reporter: Some people have commented that the appointment of this Committee is just a distraction from the Chief Executive so as not to pay attention to his problems. Realistically, how much do you think your comments and report will actually be listened to and will actually put into a change?

Chairman: I have answered previously in Chinese, and now I repeat this in English. The system is more important than the individuals. Our responsibility is to examine the system and come up with suggestions for improvement, so our work is very important. I wish to reiterate that we would operate independently and impartially. Whether we have done our job effectively, please judge us at the end of the day when you see the report.

Reporter: You said you will look at the existing guidelines covering the civil service and public bodies, will you also look at anti-bribery sources covering Hong Kong's future leaders like the Chief Executive?

Chairman: I have answered previously in Chinese, for example, whether Section 3 should be extended to cover the Chief Executive. This is definitely within the purview of the Committee.

Reporter: You have said that your Committee is impartial etc., but will you have to report to Donald Tsang on your progress, because after all he has set up this Committee?

Chairman: No. The answer is N-O.

Reporter: The Hong Kong Government has been said as slow in implementing change at a satisfactory level. How confident are you in your suggestions being implemented eventually?

Chairman: I am reasonably confident that they would command urgent attention, both by the Government and the legislature. I am reasonably confident because this is a matter of widespread public interest.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Monday, March 5, 2012
Issued at HKT 19:39


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