Proposed business search regime could damage Hong Kong’s reputation: Gordon Jones

The tightening of how to find companies could hurt Hong Kong’s reputation as an international financial center, warned former company registrar Gordon Jones.

The government will prohibit the public from accessing the residential address and identification number of directors and company secretaries through a search of the business register.

In a comment filed with Ming Pao yesterday, Jones pointed out that there had been no public consultation on the change.

Jones added that the proposed inspection regime would weaken the principles of accountability and transparency, which would affect Hong Kong’s reputation as an international financial center.

Jones also said the tightening of business research would negatively affect the “principle of limited liability.” Disclosure of information, including the identity of directors, can protect the interests of creditors and investors by having director contact methods.

It’s inevitable that directors have to give up some degree of personal privacy, he said.

Under the proposed inspection regime, only the correspondence address and partial identification numbers of company directors and secretaries would be indicated during searches.

Jones criticized the government that a partial ID cannot replace the uniqueness of a full ID number.

Additionally, professionals, including accountants, lawyers and corporate secretarial firms, were not allowed to conduct regular audits and investigations, Jones said. They lost the power to access the full ID card number and address.

This would increase the likelihood of corporate fraud, corruption and money laundering, he warned.

He also said that the press’s ability to freely conduct investigative research and reporting is “the fundamental cornerstones of Hong Kong’s transparency and civil liberties.”

Jones advised the government to reconsider the potential risks of the proposed inspection regime.