Top Hong Kong Law Enforcers 'Apologize' Over Illegal Dinner Gathering

The city's immigration and customs chiefs met the undersecretary for security for hotpot at an exclusive club in March.
By Gigi Lee
2021-07-09
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Top Hong Kong Law Enforcers 'Apologize' Over Illegal Dinner Gathering A customer spoons out food at a Hong Kong hotpot restaurant in a Feb. 11, 2020 photo.
AFP

Three high-ranking officials in Hong Kong law enforcement on Friday apologized for attending a dinner at an exclusive club in March despite restrictions on public gatherings of more than four people.

Hong Kong's immigration director Au Ka-wang, customs commissioner Hermes Tang, and undersecretary for security Sonny Au were issued with fines by police who arrived at the venue while on a separate investigation, the city's security bureau said in a statement.

"They were invited to attend it at a place where they were told by the host was a private premises, and therefore mistakenly believed that the venue fell outside the regulation of the prohibition on group gathering," the statement said.

Under the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance, gatherings of more than four people are banned in a public place, which includes "group gatherings in catering business ... premises."

The security bureau said the trio had consumed "normal hotpot ingredients" at the dinner.

"The three officials admitted that they were negligent and lacked sensitivity on this occasion," the statement said.

"They apologized for it, pledging that they will exercise particular caution when attending events in the future."

It said none of the three was involved in the separate police investigation into an allegation of rape.

Stand News reported that the meal took place at the Suiyuan Hui private club in the Causeway Centre, Wanchai district.

The club, on the third floor of the center, comprises a cigar lounge and a dining section, and bristles with surveillance cameras and a high-tech security entrance system, the news website reported.

An employee who answered the phone at a branch of the club in neighboring Shenzhen said the club provides exclusive catering services to members, who must have a negative COVID-19 PCR test to gain entry to the facilities.

Prices start at around 3,000 yuan per head, but can be much higher depending on what is consumed, the employee said.

'Standards sinking'

It was unclear who picked up the tab for the dinner, but the cost of the meal was far in excess of a H.K.$500 limit on benefits permitted to be accepted by public servants under anti-bribery laws in Hong Kong.

Media reports said that a single person had paid for the meal, but RFA was unable to verify that claim independently.

A Hong Kong barrister who declined to be named said it was important to establish who had paid for the meal, the purpose of the meal, the interests of those attending, and whether the meal had been declared to the officials' superiors.

Neither the immigration bureau, the customs and excise bureau, the security bureau, nor the civil service bureau responded to requests for information on the meal, whether it was disclosed to then security secretary John Lee, whether the officials attended in a public or private capacity, and whether someone else had picked up the tab for the officials, by the time of writing.

The Hong Kong police confirmed to RFA that a man had been arrested and charged with attempted rape, and that nine fines were issued at the premises of "a catering business in Wanchai" in the course of the rape investigation.

The apologies come after Frederic Choi, a senior officer in Hong Kong's national security police, was placed on leave after being caught in a police raid on an unlicensed massage parlor.

Chung Kim-wah, deputy head of the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI), said the Hong Kong government appears to have lost its former reputation for being relatively corruption-free.

"The moral standards of the entire government seem to be sinking, with no sense of alertness to this," Chung told RFA.

"It shows us that the system seems to have descended into decadence, with no curbs on officials' behavior," he said.

"The government doesn't even seem to think it's an issue."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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