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LCQ10: System of declaration of interests for ExCo Members

     Following is a question by the Hon Sin Chung-kai and a written reply by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (April 15):


     It has been reported that the Chief Executive (CE) facilitated the making of a donation of nearly HK$400 million by a local businessman to an overseas medical institute in early February this year. The institute, for which CE's son is working, has revealed its intention to establish a research institution in Hong Kong. Moreover, according to a press release issued by the Government on February 16 this year, CE made a declaration that his son was going to undertake research at that medical institute during internal discussion on relevant issues within the Government. In connection with the declaration of interests by Members of the Executive Council (ExCo), will the Government inform this Council:

(1) when the declaration mentioned in the aforesaid press release was made, and whether the ExCo Secretariat has received such declaration; if the ExCo Secretariat has not, of the reasons for that;

(2) whether an ExCo Member is required, under the system of declaration of interests by ExCo Members, to declare interests in relation to his/her facilitation of the making of donations by Hong Kong residents or organisations to institutions which employ his/her immediate family members; if he/she is not required to do so, of the reasons for that; and

(3) whether it will review the scope of "exclusionary interests" (i.e. interests which are so "direct and significant" that they require exclusion of an ExCo Member from the deliberations of ExCo) which an ExCo Member is required to declare, and expand the scope to cover interests of the immediate family members of ExCo Members; if it will, when it will conduct the review; if not, of the reasons for that?



     My reply to the question is as follows:

(1) and (2) As President of Executive Council (ExCo), the Chief Executive (CE) observes the system of declaration of interests for ExCo Members, including the requirement for regular declarations. The CE has declared his registrable interests annually for public inspection. He has also made declarations on his financial interests annually on a confidential basis deposited with the Clerk to ExCo. As with other ExCo Members, the CE will notify the Clerk to ExCo of any changes to the interests declared in accordance with the system.

     According to the aforementioned system for declaration of interests, ExCo Members are required to make regular declarations, which comprise the following six items:

(a) remunerated directorships in any public or private company;

(b) remunerated employments, offices, trades, profession, and so on;

(c) if the interests in the above two items include provision to clients of personal services which arise out of or relate in any manner to Members' position as ExCo Members, the names of clients;

(d) land and property owned by Members in or outside Hong Kong, including those which are held in the name of Members' spouses, children or other persons or companies but are actually owned by Members; or those which are not owned by Members but in which Members have a beneficial interest;

(e) names of companies or bodies in which Members have, either themselves or with or on behalf of their spouses or children, a beneficial interest in shareholdings of a nominal value greater than 1 per cent of the issued share capital; and

(f) membership of boards, committees or other organisations.

     According to the existing declaration system, ExCo Members are not required to declare the remunerated employments of their immediate family members in their regular declarations.

     The second part of the declaration system is declarations in respect of individual items discussed by the ExCo. It is the personal responsibility of ExCo Members to examine whether they have an interest in any item discussed by the ExCo and declare it before the ExCo discussion. In line with the principle of confidentiality of ExCo, the Government does not disclose the content of ExCo discussion or the related declarations of interests. However, we would like to point out that the Government has put in place an effective system to check potential conflict of interests on the part of the CE and other ExCo Members in dealing with ExCo business. The system includes the following:

(a) the responsible bureau or department submitting an item to ExCo and the Clerk to ExCo will, in exercising due diligence, examine whether the CE or any ExCo Member may have an interest in the subject matter; and

(b) where available information shows that the CE or any ExCo Member may have an exclusionary or declaratory interest in the matter, the Clerk to ExCo will, prior to the relevant ExCo meeting, draw the CE's attention to that interest for the CE to consider whether the interest should be declared at the meeting and how the ExCo discussion should be handled.

     In respect of the declaration enquired in the question, as stated in the press release issued by the CE's Office on February 16, 2015, the relevant medical institute is a world-class medical university and has been working closely in medical research with a number of tertiary institutions in Hong Kong, such as the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Since early 2010, Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, the Innovation and Technology Commission and the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation have already been in touch with the medical institute to explore co-operation opportunities. The CE had also declared that his son was going to undertake post-doctoral research at that medical institute during internal discussion on relevant issues within the Government.

(3) The Independent Review Committee for the Prevention and Handling of Potential Conflicts of Interests (IRC) has examined the existing system of declaration of interests for ExCo Members in detail. According to its report released in May 2012, the IRC considers that the current system for declaration of interests by ExCo Members is on the whole satisfactory. At present, the Government has no plan to revise the declaration system of ExCo.

Ends/Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Issued at HKT 11:30


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