Two major figures will depart from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in August, in a new wave of staff unrest at the corruption watchdog.

It was announced on Friday that the Acting Head of Operations Ricky Yau Shu-chun has requested to terminate his contract with the commission, and he will proceed on final leave on August 1. Chief Forensic Accountant Tang Shuk-nei was also reported on Friday to be leaving the agency after her contract ends in mid-August.

Lam Cheuk-ting, the Democratic Party’s chief executive and a former ICAC investigator, said commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu was a “sinner condemned by history” and that he should resign from his position as he was responsible for the internal turmoil.

Tang Shuk-Nei (left) and Ricky Yau Shu-chun (right). File

“The internal morale of the ICAC has collapsed,” Lam said. “If Peh does not step down, the system and the morale of the ICAC cannot be rebuilt.”

Anson Chan, the former Chief Secretary and convener of think tank Hong Kong 2020, also expressed concern over the unusual shakeup.

“Simon Peh must publicly explain in detail as soon as possible to allay public concerns,” she said.

Rebecca Li and Dale Ko.

Previous resignations

Rebecca Li Bo-lan, a highly respected figure, was removed from the acting head of operations post earlier in July. Li subsequently resigned on July 18 and Yau was appointed to the position.

Questions were raised about whether the decision was related to investigations into the Chief Executive’s HK$50m UGL payment controversy, which Li had been investigating.

Peh said after the incident that Li was removed because she did not meet the requirements of the position. He also said that he alone made the decision to remove Li from her position, and no one else had interfered in the process. CY Leung denied that he was involved in the decision.

Days after Li’s departure, “star” principal investigator Dale Ko also tendered his resignation.

ICAC commissioner Simon Peh.

The agency’s annual dinner was rescheduled after over 75 per cent of its staff said they would not be attending the event in response to the staff shakeup.

On Friday, it was reported that Tang, the Chief Forensic Accountant, decided to not extend her contract. Her decision has been confirmed by the ICAC.

A source was cited by Apple Daily as saying that Tang criticised Simon Peh at a top level internal meeting after the decision to remove Li from her position because she found his explanation unreasonable.

Peh paid tribute to Yau for his dedicated service in the ICAC and distinguished contribution to the anti-corruption cause.

Peh has appointed Ricky Yu Chun-cheong, the Director of Investigation (Government Sector), as the new Acting Head of Operations, effective August 1.

Ricky Chu Man-kin. File

Former top official returns

Meanwhile, it was confirmed that Ricky Chu Man-kin will be the new Director of Investigation (Government Sector), effective August 1, 2016, subsequent to Yu’s appointment.

Chu, former Assistant Director of Operations, joined the agency in 1978 and retired from the Commission in 2010 to take up the post of Secretary-General of the Independent Police Complaints Council.

Lam Cheuk-ting said that it would be difficult for the ICAC to recover from the internal chaos even after Chu came back to the agency, if Peh continues to be its commissioner.

The Democratic Party will hold a protest outside the ICAC headquarters on Saturday morning to demand Peh’s resignation.

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.