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President, as the incident of the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange Limited (HKMEx) involves a Member of the Executive Council, we are all very concerned about it. At the meeting of the House Committee on 7 June, we discussed the motion put forward by Mr James TIEN who proposed the setting up of a select committee and invoking the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance (P&P Ordinance) to inquire into the HKMEx incident. At the meeting, 65 Members voted in a division, and the motion was eventually negatived with 30 votes supporting it and 34 votes opposing it. I, being the Chairman of the House Committee, did not cast a vote in accordance with the established practice. But the other six Members of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (the Alliance) unanimously cast opposition votes which had a decisive effect. Some people subsequently criticized us for not having an independent position. This is obviously not true. Today, I wish to take the opportunity of this motion debate to state the position of the Alliance.
President, the Alliance is a political party that faces the public. We know very well that we would absolutely win much applause politically if we voted in support of the Legislative Council invoking the P&P Ordinance to conduct an inquiry. We know all the more clearly that we would face political attacks from our rivals if we voted against it. It is precisely because our several votes are so critical that the Alliance chose to cast opposition votes in the hope that we can find out the truth as early as possible and subject the persons involved to legal sanctions as soon as possible.
The Alliance is committed to promoting the economy and the overall development of Hong Kong. We are keener to find out the truth about the HKMEx incident than anyone else. We understand that the public and some colleagues can read from newspapers every day that the media has raised a lot of questions. But without the support of solid evidence and justifications, we cannot rashly invoke the P&P Ordinance to conduct an inquiry.
We also understand that some organizations which are regulated by the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) are dissatisfied with the transparency of the SFC. They even think that the SFC has engaged in black box operation and acted unfairly. But these are individual issues that should be handled individually. If we are unhappy with other issues, we should resolve them through another channel. Like colleagues in the Legislative Council who are in this Chamber, I have endeavoured to enhance the transparency of the SFC in recent years. Therefore, I do not think that there is a need for us to make use of this incident to kill with a borrowed knife by employing political means.
Moreover, the SFC and the Commercial Crime Bureau (CCB) of the police are now investigating this incident. Over the past few days, the police have arrested a number of people involved. I hope the relevant authorities can speed up their investigation and further make public the relevant actions taken.
Under the P&P Ordinance, the Legislative Council and its standing committees may summon any person to give evidence at meetings or request inspection of relevant documents and records and even compel attendance by specified persons by a warrant. In other words, this is an extraordinary power that should be exercised only in extraordinary circumstances.
President, since the enactment of the P&P Ordinance in 1985, we have conducted an inquiry on eight incidents only. It reflects that this power is exercised with great prudence, or else it would not be worthy of being dubbed as the “imperial sword”.
President, the Legal Adviser of the Legislative Council has pointed out that no statement or admission made by a person in answering a question put to him in any proceedings conducted pursuant to the answering to a summons or in complying with any order made in any such proceedings, is or can be admissible as evidence against that person in proceedings for any offence. In other words, even if we invoke the P&P Ordinance to conduct an inquiry, we cannot provide more evidence in court for law enforcement and on the contrary, we may even impede the investigation being conducted by law enforcers.
Therefore, since the law-enforcement agencies have started their investigations, I hope that we can first allow them to complete their work expeditiously. Furthermore, if the Legislative Council invokes the P&P Ordinance to inquire into the incident, the details and confidential information involved in this incident would inevitably be made public and worse still, a professional inquiry may even degenerate into a public trial on the Internet and a political trial. The HKMEx incident involves a lot of professional knowledge and not all Members of this Council can participate in the whole process; nor can they ask in-depth questions and follow the clues to find out the truth. We are all the more concerned about possible leakage of confidential information when the persons concerned are questioned by the Legislative Council, and this may even enable law-breakers to escape punishment by law. This will have far-reaching consequences and must not be handled rashly.
We understand that members of the public do hope to find out the truth. This is why the Alliance had particularly listened to the views of all sides before the vote was taken in the House Committee. We also took the initiative to meet with the SFC and the Secretary, in order to find out more about what actually happened. We conducted in-depth and detailed discussions on the incident, thoroughly considered the proposals put forward by all sides and carefully gauged their consequences, especially the impact on Hong Kong as a whole in the long term. We weighed the pros and cons and consulted the industries, including the Federation of Hong Kong Industries which I represent.
In fact, before the vote was taken, the five major business chambers had come together for a meal, and none of them had asked their representatives in this Council to vote for the motion. We consider it more reasonable to wait until the SFC and the CCB of the police have completed their investigations. Then, the Legislative Council can, based on the relevant information, decide whether or not the P&P Ordinance should be invoked to conduct an inquiry.
The Alliance considers that even though we are all keen to find out the truth about this incident, we should work step by step in line with the standard of how we should act in a modern society. Today, the Alliance will oppose invoking the P&P Ordinance to conduct an inquiry on the same principle.
President, I venture to say that the Alliance’s voting preference today will induce a lot of criticisms against us. The criticism that was hurled at us before, accusing us for not having an independent position, will become rampant again. However, these criticisms will not deter us from upholding the principle of acting in the long-term interest of Hong Kong. We will not change our position in order to gain political clout. We voted against the motion last time and we will vote against this motion today, unlike the Member who sponsored the motion on invoking the P&P Ordinance last time but left it to Mr LEUNG Kwok-hung to propose it this time around.
Hong Kong is a society where the rule of law prevails. Law-enforcement agencies and the Judiciary have all along handled every case in a stringent, fair and impartial manner. From a political viewpoint, we can stand the test. Politics should not intervene in law enforcement and the Judiciary. We understand that the public would like us to bear this point in mind and we must refrain from gaining political chips to the neglect of judicial fairness.
With these remarks, President, I oppose this motion on behalf of the Alliance.