Following is a question by the Hon Christopher Chung and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (October 15):
It has been reported that earlier on, a number of newspapers in Hong Kong received e-mails which alleged that the chairman of a local media group had made huge amounts of political donations to a number of former and incumbent Members of the Legislative Council (LegCo), well-known political figures and former government officials. It has also been reported that the person has close ties with senior government officials and military personages of a certain country. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) given that politically appointed officials or civil servants are currently regulated by the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance or the relevant internal codes of the Government during service, and are strictly prohibited from accepting advantages, whether any legislation or code is currently in place to regulate the acceptance of advantages directly or indirectly from local or foreign sources by such personnel after retirement; if so, of the details;
(2) whether any legislation is currently in place to prohibit any foreign government or political organisation from providing pecuniary, non-pecuniary or deferred benefits to Hong Kong's political organisations or political figures through intermediaries such as local enterprises or people, in an attempt to interfere with Hong Kong's internal affairs; if such legislation is not in place, whether the Government has plans to enact legislation to impose such regulation; if it does, of the timetable; and
(3) as it has been reported that certain foreign forces have attempted to recruit, through making donations, local political figures or LegCo Members to be the spokespersons for their interests in Hong Kong or to influence the discussions on Hong Kong's constitutional development, whether the Government will take the initiative to request the Central People's Government or the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong to provide assistance in the diplomatic aspect to guard against foreign forces from indirectly interfering with the internal affairs of Hong Kong; if it will, of the details?
Since individual cases of donations as reported in the media concern investigations being handled by law enforcement agencies, this Bureau will not comment on these cases.
As regards the first part of the question concerning the scope of application of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (Cap. 201), we have consulted the Administration Wing and our reply is set out below.
There are various laws in Hong Kong that govern different categories of corrupt practices, including the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (the Ordinance) in statute law. Under section 4(2) of the Ordinance, any public servant who, whether in Hong Kong or elsewhere, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, solicits or accepts advantage as an inducement to or reward for or otherwise on account of his performing or abstaining from performing, or having performed or abstained from performing, any act in his capacity as a public servant, may commit an offence of "soliciting or accepting advantage by a public servant".
According to the interpretation in section 2 of the Ordinance, "public servant" means any "prescribed officer" and also any employee of a specified public body, and "prescribed officer" includes any person holding an office of emolument, whether permanent or temporary, under the Government, and any principal official of the Government appointed in accordance with the Basic Law. According to this interpretation, any person who has ceased holding an office of emolument or any retired principle official of the Government does not come under the definition of "public servant" and hence is not governed by section 4(2) of the Ordinance. Nevertheless, the said section is still applicable to the relevant person regarding his conduct while he was a "public servant".
Moreover, the Civil Service Bureau has advised that the existing government rules and regulations on acceptance of advantages by civil servants are only applicable to serving civil servants (including those on pre-retirement leave).
In addition, the existing Code for Officials under the Political Appointment System governing the acceptance of advantages by Politically Appointed Officials is applicable to serving Politically Appointed Officials.
As regards the second part of the question, Hong Kong does not have any specific legislation regulating the operation of political parties or requiring registration of political parties. When considering whether a political party law should be introduced to govern the operation of political parties or not, including the sources of income of political parties and their management of donations, we consider that various groups in the community have to examine in detail the pros and cons the legislation may pose on the development of political parties. This notwithstanding, the Government adopts an open mind towards the issue of formulating a political party law in the long run and we welcome views of the Legislative Council and the community on this issue.
As regards the last part of the question, constitutional development of Hong Kong is a matter for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and an internal affair of China. Foreign governments should respect this principle and should not interfere in any way; and the HKSAR Government would not accept any interference from foreign forces.
Ends/Wednesday, October 15, 2014