Give the hotpot trio a break: Carrie Lam

Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday insisted no further action should be taken against three senior officials who were treated to a free hotpot meal at a private club in March, saying people shouldn’t be “too harsh” on them.

Last week, it was revealed that immigration and customs chiefs Au Ka-wang and Hermes Tang, along with undersecretary for security Sonny Au and six others, were each fined HK$5,000 for flouting a cap on public gatherings.

The breach came to light as police were investigating a separate rape case.

At her weekly meet-the-press session, the CE was asked if there should be a probe into whether the officials breached government regulations which stipulate that all civil servants and politically-appointed officials “must avoid any lavish, unreasonably generous or frequent entertainment that may lead to embarrassment in performing official duties or bring the civil service into disrepute”.

Lam said she didn’t think it was a “blatant attempt” to breach the rules as the officials didn’t know what they were going to eat or drink.

“There’s no definition of what a lavish dinner is. There’s no definition of what is being unreasonable. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of judgement,” she said.

“It would be too harsh to say that no public officers could attend social gatherings.”

She said the three officials had “borne their legal responsibility” and paid the fines for violating social distancing rules.

But Roundtable lawmaker Michael Tien disagreed.

He said during a radio programme that the government should make clear when officials should decline invitations for expensive meals.

The pro-Beijing legislator also said the government should disclose more details about the hotpot dinner and the nature of the gathering.