Carrie Lam query about test lab worried legislator

November 11, 2015 15:36
Helena Wong (left) was concerned when Carrie Lam asked her to name the lab that had tested water samples for the Democrats. Photos: HKEJ, CNSA

Helena Wong Pik-wan, who first exposed Hong Kong's lead-in-water scandal, told am730 she was worried when Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor asked her for the name of the lab the party had hired to test water quality.

The Democratic Party legislator said she refused to give Lam the name, as she thought it should be kept confidential, even though Lam posed the question in July in a “casual” way.

Wong said she told Lam only that the laboratory was a government-certified one.

The lawmaker said she was disappointed at Lam’s query, which made her worry that the government might try to pressure the lab to quit performing tests for the Democratic Party.

Lam was, in fact, not the only official interested in which lab the party had hired.

Wong said an official from the Department of Health also asked about the lab’s name during a meeting two days after the news conference on July 5 when Wong exposed the scandal.

She said she also refused to name the lab.

Wong said she became aware later that some labs had said they were asked by government officials whether they had conducted the water tests for the Democratic Party.

There are only six labs in the city certified to perform tests on heavy metals, Wong said.

The government’s inquiries could create a chilling effect that might lead the labs to avoid performing any work for her party, she said.

Lam's press secretary said in a reply to the newspaper that the government has never objected to any individual requesting a lab to perform water tests.

The government has in fact been encouraging more labs to apply for certification from the Innovation and Technology Commission, the press secretary said.

Meanwhile, Lo Wai-kwok, the lawmaker representing the engineering constituency, said the inquiries by officials as to the identity of the lab showed the government cared about the tainted-water issue and were not tantamount to putting pressure on the labs.

But Sing Ming, associate professor of social sciences at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said the lab in question would definitely feel pressure once its name was known by the officials.

He said such pressure could be avoided, since the government can perform the tests itself.

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