Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said sources at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) told him that the agency has internal guidelines restricting investigators from using special powers in cases involving the Chief Executive.

To cited the sources as saying that such guidelines banning the use of special powers – including the search and seizure of offices and flats – came after the amendment to section four of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance in 2008 to apply the law to the Chief Executive.

“I was shocked after I found out – why would the ICAC restrict itself like that?” he said to reporters. He urged the agency to explain whether such guidelines existed, and the reason behind it.

James To. File Photo: Facebook/James To

Rebecca Li Bo-lan, the acting Head of Operations at the watchdog, was recently removed from her acting position and she ultimately resigned.

She was involved in investigating Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s secret HK$50m payment from Australian engineering firm UGL, but Leung’s office and the Executive Council did not reply to the ICAC’s enquiries for a year, according to sources cited by the Democratic Party.

To said the guidelines prevented the ICAC from making any progress in cases involving the alleged corruption of the Chief Executive.

“If you restrict yourself to not use [the special powers], you can only constantly send letters, like a pen pal, asking certain organisations to answer, and send more letters if they do not reply,” he said.

File photo: HKFP, Tom Grundy.

To said officials at the ICAC may have offended Leung when they kept on asking, without naming Li.

The ICAC reports to the Chief Executive. The commissioner to the agency was nominated by the Chief Executive and appointed by the central government in Beijing.

Leung will appear at a question and answer session at the Legislative Council on Thursday. To said he will ask Leung about the guidelines if he is given the chance.

Leung previously said that he was not involved in the recent personnel changes at the ICAC.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.