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Hong Kong: Police Officers' Amnesty

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 10 November 1977

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3.16 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are their views on the statement made by the Governor of Hong Kong on 5th November relating to an amnesty for police officers in Hong Kong.

My Lords, this was a matter for judgment by the Governor, and Her Majesty's Government fully support his decision to grant a limited amnesty and his subsequent refusal to extend it in any way.

My Lords, does this mean that the Independent Commission Against Corruption has now ceased as an effective agency against corruption, and has it not undermined British authority so that the law cannot be effective in the courts?

My Lords, we have the highest regard and admiration for the way in which the ICAC has been conducted and for the very able and dedicated leadership of Mr. Jack Cater, who was appointed by our excellent Governor, Sir Murray MacLehose. Their procedures are of course related to court procedures.

My Lords, I apologise for speaking again but I did withdraw a Question of my own to enable this one to be put today. May I ask the Minister whether he is aware that there is a widespread view in Hong Kong, illustrated in letters which I have seen from responsible persons, that this is a surrender to police pressure, including violence near to mutiny, and that it will be a blow to the drive against corruption? Could he confirm that the Independent Commission Against Corruption, headed bravely by Mr. Cater, is investigating 38 corruption syndicates, of which 26 are alleged to be in the police service, and that this decision will mean that most of these investigations will not take place?

My Lords, I cannot share the view expressed by my noble friend in the first part of his question. My right honourable friend and I are convinced that the Governor exercised the right judgment and took the right decisions in a very difficult and urgent situation. As to the persistence of syndicated corruption, I am glad to be able to assure the House that on the evidence before us, while corrupt individuals may remain, there is no syndicated corruption still active within the public service in Hong Kong.

My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that it is exceedingly difficult to pass judgment on a complex local situation from a distance of 14,000 miles, and would it not be highly advisable to reiterate that absolute confidence reposes in our Governor of Hong Kong, who has already a most outstandingly successful record in that Colony?

My Lords, I am very glad indeed to agree entirely with my noble friend's remarks. I agree with everything he has said. There is no question of our full support and confidence in Sir Murray MacLehose as an outstandingly able Governor.

My Lords, could my noble friend confirm that the Governor's decision, which regretfully had to be taken immediately after the difficulties at the Anti-corruption Bureau, was taken after consultation with Mr. Cater? I was delighted at the tribute my noble friend paid to him. Would my noble friend also agree that the need for this body to remain in being is not only for the pursuit of those who have been corrupted, but to bring a greater degree of understanding and education to the people of Hong Kong in respect of the evils of corruption?

My Lords, my understanding is that such consultation within the government of Hong Kong took place even under the pressure of rapidly moving events. I agree with the second part of my noble friend's supplementary question and I look to a future of even greater progress in this field, possibly as a result of the tests, as well as tensions, which these incidents have imposed not only on the Government of Hong Kong but on the solidarity of the public of Hong Kong.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there is no question about the integrity and courage of the two men concerned, the Governor and Mr. Jack Cater? Will he give the House an assurance the ICAC will continue its work under the chairmanship of Mr. Jack Cater?

Yes, my Lords; I expect that Mr. Cater, who rendered such splendid service on the appointment of the Governor, will continue as Commissioner against corruption. He has been in the position for three very active and productive years. I expect that he will continue, and I hope that he will do so.

My Lords, will the noble Lord and Her Majesty's Government not agree, in connection with these November amnesties, that there is an older offence related to 5th November which now needs putting under amnesty in the sense of forgetfulness, in view of the fact that there have now been more people killed and injured in celebrating it than would have happened if the deed had been successful?