22 February 2019
Rebecca Li's departure from the ICAC has prompted speculation that some powerful figures had wanted her out of the anti-graft agency. Photos: Xinhua, ICAC
Rebecca Li's departure from the ICAC has prompted speculation that some powerful figures had wanted her out of the anti-graft agency. Photos: Xinhua, ICAC

ICAC faces questions as investigative unit chief quits abruptly

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), Hong Kong’s anti-graft body, is facing questions over what appears to be an abrupt resignation of a senior official.

The ICAC announced Thursday that Rebecca Li Bo-lan, the acting head of the agency’s powerful investigative unit, “will proceed on final leave on July 18″ and that someone else will be taking over her post.

The agency paid tribute to Li’s long service with the anti-corruption body, but didn’t give any reason for her sudden exit.

As Li is leaving in just about a year after she took control of the ICAC’s Operations Department, questions are being raised as to what led to the departure, the Hong Kong Economic Journal noted. 

ICAC Commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu said in a press release Thursday that Ricky Yau Shu-chun, who currently holds the post of Director of Investigation (Private Sector) at the anti-graft agency, will take over Li’s job.

Li’s abrupt exit has come as a shock to many ICAC employees as the officer, who has earned the nickname “female Sherlock Holmes” for her successes in various investigations, had been widely considered as a frontrunner for the commissioner’s post.

Li, 53, commenced her career in the ICAC in 1984 as an assistant investigator before she got promoted through the ranks. She was named Principal Investigator in 2002, Assistant Director of Operations in 2004 and Director of Investigation in 2010.

She assumed the post of Head of Operations on July 18 last year, becoming the first female to lead the department as well as the first No. 2 woman officer at the anti-graft agency.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who is a member of the Legislative Council security panel, said he suspects Li’s resignation might be due to some political factors, and not related to her performance.

Calling it is another blow to ICAC’s credibility following the Maria Tam Wai-chu case, To demanded that ICAC explain why Li is leaving.

If the agency fails to come up with a proper explanation, the matter will be taken up at the Legco, he said.

In December 2014, ICAC drew flak after it appointed Maria Tam, a deputy to China’s National People’s Congress, as head of the operations review committee of the agency. 

There had been media reports suggesting that Beijing did not trust Li as the officer had gone to the US once to receive FBI training.

Meanwhile, some officials were also said to be unhappy with the cases pursued by Li.

ICAC may have decided to demote her, prompting Li to hand in her resignation, according to some reports.

Stephen Char Shik-ngor, a former chief ICAC investigator, said it is normal practice that the anti-graft agency reports its personnel changes to the government, and the city’s top leader shouldn’t have any role in the decisions.

In the case of Li, it is hard to say if there were political factors behind her resignation, he said.

Other than Li’s replacement, the ICAC also announced Thursday that Choi Shu-keung, now an Assistant Director of Operations, will act as Director of Investigation (Private Sector) to succeed Yau.

Acting Director of Community Raymond Ng Kwok-ming has been promoted to Director of Community Relations, while Rita Liaw Lily, now an Assistant Director of Community Relations, will act as Director of Corruption Prevention with effect from July 18.

Liaw will replace Tse Man-shing who will retire, according to the announcement.

[Chinese version 中文版]

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