As Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has begun work on forming her Cabinet, her potential appointment of new heads of key government institutions has also aroused much interest.
In particular, there is a lot of speculation as to who might become the next commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
At first, Sin Yat-kin, the former Commissioner of Correctional Services and the deputy manager of Carrie Lam’s election campaign office, was widely tipped for the job.
Later there was talk that the incumbent Secretary for Security, TK Lai, is also a likely candidate for the position.
Now, according to sources close to Lam’s inner circle, the latest development is that things have recently taken a sudden and unexpected turn over the choice of the next ICAC chief.
Sources say the incumbent commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu, who was initially scheduled to retire at the end of June this year, is likely to remain in his current position after July 1.
Appointed by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying as the ICAC commissioner back in 2012, the now 61-year-old Peh has proven instrumental in putting things right at the anti-graft body after his predecessor Timothy Tong was probed by the Legco over his alleged extravagant spending during his term in office.
Peh might have gone down in history as an “adequate” ICAC commissioner had it not been for a scandal last summer when there was an unexplained demotion, and the subsequent abrupt departure, of Rebecca Li Bo-lan, the then acting chief of the ICAC’s investigative unit.
The saga over Li’s sudden resignation stirred up a firestorm of controversy and raised grave concerns among the public over whether Peh really has what it takes to lead the anti-graft body.
However, some in the political circles believe the incident may not necessarily have left a stain on Peh’s reputation and track record, because after all, he managed to quickly resolve the crisis and settle the differences within the ICAC.
Besides, his take-no-prisoner handling of former chief executive Donald Tsang’s graft case has indicated that Peh is not afraid of taking on the “big tigers” when it comes to fighting corruption.
As such, observers say they won’t be surprised if Peh is invited by Lam to stay in his current position.
If Peh, indeed, remains in office after July 1, a decision on whether or not to follow up on the Leung-UGL case might turn out to be his ultimate challenge. But that’s another story.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 26
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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