Following is a question by the Hon Lee Wing-tat under Rule 24(4) of the Rules of Procedure and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (February 29):
It has been reported that the Chief Executive (CE) had rented a penthouse of East Pacific Garden in Futian District in Shenzhen as residence after his departure from office, and probably because the owner of East Pacific Garden is a shareholder of the Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong Limited (DBC), the public query that in respect of the licensing of DBC, CE was suspected to be involved in the transfer of benefits, and giving rise to public concern about the integrity and conduct of government officials. To immediately resolve the doubt of the public about the governance of the Government, will the Government inform this Council if it knows:
(a) whether the tenancy offer was initiated by the owner of the aforesaid residential unit; if so, the details (including when the offer was made); whether the owner had, when he leased out the unit, indicated that the tenant might give views on the fitting-out of the unit; if so, the details; and
(b) whether the owner of the aforesaid unit had, in the process of leasing out the unit, indicated to the tenant that he would consider selling the unit during the tenancy term or upon the expiry of the tenancy agreement, and whether he had indicated that there was any specific target buyer; if so, the name of the target buyer?
In response to recent reports about the Chief Executive (CE) accepting hospitality offered by his friends and the related discussions in the community, the CE has explained to the public by personally attending a radio programme and by issuing a press release via the CE's Office on February 26 (Sunday). To uphold accountability to the community and the spirit of transparency, the CE has agreed to attend a special Question and Answer session in the afternoon of March 1 (Thursday), where he stands ready to address Members' questions on the events.
Before answering the question from Member, the Administration would like to give accounts on behalf of the CE.
First, the CE thanked the media for the reports and Members' questions, which shed light on and allow him to better understand that public servants must be "whiter than white". The CE has reflected deeply over the recent events again and again, and come to the conclusion that there is a gap between the current rules, with which he has faithfully complied, and the expectations of Hong Kong people. In consequence, there has been disappointment from the community. Noting the view of some sectors of the community that he should not have any association with people who might be considered "wealthy" or "rich", the CE wishes that the public can understand he has to get a full picture of what is happening in the community. Hence, he has been maintaining contact with people from all walks of life, including the grassroots, the middle class and people from different economic sectors. The CE realises from the events that there are rooms for greater vigilance and sensitivity in his handling of the relevant trips.
The CE has set up a five-man Independent Review Committee for the Prevention and Handling of Potential Conflicts of Interests, which will be chaired by the former Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal, the Honourable Andrew Li Kwok-nang. The Committee will review the existing regulatory frameworks and procedures for the prevention and handling of potential conflicts of interests (including the arrangements for declaration of investments/interests and acceptance of advantage/ entertainment/ hospitality) concerning the CE, Non-Official Members of the Executive Council and Officials under the Political Appointment System, and make recommendations on improvement measures. The Committee will submit a report with recommendations to the CE in around three months' time.
Details regarding the CE and his wife's travels involving private passages, the donations made to charitable institutions with all the proceeds from selling private wine collections and the rental residence in Shenzhen are set out in the Annex.
The Administration's reply to the question raised by the Hon Lee Wing-tat is as follows:
(a) The CE had indicated earlier that he would not take part in any commercial activities after retirement, and that he wished to leave Hong Kong for some time after retiring from office. A few years ago, he started to look for a suitable short-term place of residence in Macau and the Mainland. He then learned that one of his friends owned a unit in Shenzhen and intended to convert it from a club house into a residential unit. The CE considered the premises a suitable accommodation for him and his wife after retirement, and expressed interest to the owner in 2010 in renting the unit after its conversion, provided that the conversion works must be completed by July 2012 so that the CE and his wife could move in immediately after retirement. In early 2012, the owner indicated that the conversion could be completed by mid-2012 as scheduled. As such, the CE signed a tenancy agreement with the owner in February 2012 for renting the unit at market rate. Details of the tenancy agreement are at Annex (C).
The conversion of the unit is the sole responsibility of the owner, including the scope and costs of the alteration and fitting-out. While works were in progress, the owner had invited the CE and his wife to give their views on the alteration and fitting-out, on the premise that their views would not affect the progress of the works.
(b) In the process of leasing out the unit, the owner did not indicate to the CE that he would consider selling the unit during the tenancy term or upon expiry of the tenancy agreement.
Ends/Wednesday, February 29, 2012