Sunday, May 26, 2013

scmp: Exco is losing its power and authority, says Legco chief

Jasper Tsang says city's troubled policy-making body has been losing power since the handover and calls for review of its make-up and function

Stuart Lau

The city's core policy-making authority, the Executive Council, has been losing power since the handover and its function and composition must reviewed, the head of the legislature has urged.

His suggestion follows last week's resignation of Exco member Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, who is being investigated by police in connection with his failed Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange. Another Exco member, Franklin Lam Fan-keung, has been on indefinite leave of absence since November after coming under investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said Exco was not living up to its past role.

"During British rule, the Executive Council was a body with actual power. [Its members] had a strong say in front of the governor; their words carried a lot of weight," said Tsang, who sat on the executive councils of former chief executives Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. "There was a rule that if the governor reached a decision contrary to the majority view in Exco, he needed to ... give specific reasons on record, which would be seen by the British government. Today, we can't see the Executive Council performing the same function," Tsang said.

Exco's website still says that if the chief executive does not accept its majority opinion, he needs to put the specific reasons on record. And the Basic Law stipulates that Exco is the body responsible for helping the chief executive make policy decisions.

Tsang noted that the number of Exco members and the ratio between officials, lawmakers and people from public life were "completely unregulated".

"The chief executive decides solely who sits on Exco and when to terminate their appointments," Tsang said.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a current member, said Exco's power had "diminished in the face of a rise in de facto party politics".

"In the old days, when Exco made a decision, that was it. Because Legco was appointed, we can't expect Exco [now] to function with the same decisiveness and authority."

Professor Ma Ngok, of the Chinese University, said Exco had become a "political reward" for the chief executive's supporters, resulting in a loss of authority.

The Chief Executive's Office said Leung "is willing to listen to" views on Exco's operation.

Meanwhile, Jasper Tsang said there was no need to improve on Exco's "already stringent" rules on declaration of interests.

Barry Cheung ignored questions from reporters as he left his Repulse Bay home last night.

Exco members then and now

Some members of Chris Patten's Exco

Baroness Dunn non-executive deputy chairman, HSBC
Vincent Cheng Hoi-chuen first Chinese executive director at HSBC
Sir William Purves chairman, HSBC Holdings
Andrew Li Kwok-nang Queen's Counsel, later first post-handover chief justice

Some members of Leung Chun-ying's Exco

Barry Cheung Chun-yuen chairman, HKMEx (resigned on Friday)

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