Former ICAC commissioner to join forum discussion on Hong Kong graftbuster's recent staff crisis

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Betrand de Speville invited by pro-democracy think-tank and organisation promoting civic participation to share his opinions on reshuffle

Former Hong Kong graftbuster chief Bertrand de Speville who oversaw the sacking of a former deputy director two decades ago will fly in from Britain to share his views over the agency's latest reshuffle controversy this Saturday.

De Speville, who stepped down as the commissioner of Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in 1996, was invited by Project Citizens Foundation and Hong Kong 2020 - a pro-democracy think-tank helmed by former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang - to speak at a public forum at the University of Hong Kong called "Assault on the ICAC and the Rule of Law?"

The event comes a month after the acting head of the watchdog's powerful investigative unit, Rebecca Li Bo-lan, was removed by ICAC commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu less than a year after he appointed her.

Two more senior staff also resigned after the saga, sparking concerns that the shake-up might be related to the ICAC investigation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's UGL case. That probe centred on whether Leung had disclosed to the Executive Council a HK$50 million payment from Australian firm UGL.

Chan said she had decided to host the forum together with the foundation, chaired by columnist Tsim Tak-lung and which promotes and advances civic participation, because they "refuse to allow the government to sweep this under the carpet".

"I think there is sufficient public concern over the perception that the ICAC is losing its independence and there is increasing political interference in [its] operation," Chan said yesterday.

She said she had persuaded de Speville, now a renowned adviser to governments and international bodies on anti-corruption policy and practice, to give a speech on the watchdog's evolvement.

"He must be concerned," said Chan. "[De Speville] has always cited Hong Kong as being exemplary. If something like this happened to Hong Kong, would he be concerned? Of course he will."

In 1993, then deputy director of operations Alex Tsui Ka-kit was sacked after de Speville, the commissioner then, felt he no longer had any confidence in him, as he was found not declaring a link with a man involved in a probe.

The recent staff shake-up was very unsettling, Chan said, particularly in the absence of a credible explanation from Peh.