Challenge to Patten team over corruption cover-up

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Hong Kong legislators are heading for an unprecedented confrontation with Governor Chris Patten's administration which may end in contempt proceedings being initiated against the Chief Secretary, Anson Chan.

The committee investigating the sudden departure last year of the director of immigration, Lawrence Leung, has been asking Mrs Chan to let them see a report on Mr Leung complied by the colony's powerful Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

Mrs Chan has refused to do so on grounds of public interest. Yesterday she was asked for the last time whether she would change her mind. Mrs Chan replied she had "nothing to add" to previous statements.

The committee chairman, Ip Kowk-him, said he could not accept the public interest case advanced by Mrs Chan and was supported by other legislators. He said there were two alternatives facing the committee; they could invoke their powers to ask the Attorney General to initiate contempt proceedings against Mrs Chan, or would criticise her refusal to furnish information in their report.

The committee had offered to accept an edited version of the report to exclude material which might compromise the ICAC operations. However, this approach was also rebuffed.

The saga of the investigation into Mr Leung's departure has been marked by government prevarication and what it now admits was telling a "narrow interpretation of the truth" in claiming the former director resigned from his post for "personal reasons".

It has since been revealed that Mr Leung was involved in unauthorised business dealings and suspicion still remains that he may have been involved in other improper activities with political implications.