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Official reveals firms behind free face masks

2020-05-07 HKT 11:16
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  • Official reveals firms behind free face masks
Jimmy Choi reports
The government has revealed the names of the companies making reusable masks that are being distributed to all residents, after questions were raised as to why the administration did not carry out a regular tender process to select the firms.

The permanent secretary for Innovation and Technology, Annie Choi, said on an RTHK programme on Thursday that the masks are being produced by Hong Kong-based textiles company Crystal International Group Limited which has a production line in Vietnam, as well as TAL Apparel which has small production lines in Hong Kong.

Choi said that officials initially did not want to disclose the identities of the companies because they didn't want to "inconvenience anyone".

But with the consent of the manufacturers, they decided to make the names public.

She also confirmed that the completed masks are being handed over to another firm with a factory in Tai Po Industrial Estate for sterilisation work and to be packaged up, and that property group Nan Fung has provided space in The Mills for free storage.

Choi dismissed allegations that the government has colluded with certain businesses, saying the manufacturers have been trying to help the city at bargain prices.

The official also said that the government had decided in early February to commission the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel to coordinate the project, stressing that the institute is a non-profit organisation and will not gain from the mask drive.

She also said that the government had approached more than 10 other manufacturers and firms in the process, but none of them had the relevant certification for producing quality face masks.

Choi said the authorities eventually decided to commission the institute to lead the project, stressing that this had complied with internal and WTO procurement rules.

The institute's website shows that two of its current directors are executives of the firms manufacturing the masks; Frankie Wong is the executive director of Crystal Group, while Tommy Siu is a vice-president at TAL Apparel.

The government has come under fire for not carrying out a regular tender exercise, with some expressing concerns that underhand deals may have been involved.

IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok said the government should have made the information public in the first place, urging it to disclose more details about the decision-making and production process.

Mok said the government's auditor and the Ombudsman might want to look into the saga, being as the process wasn't transparent and involved a large sum of public money.

"There are still a lot of unanswered questions … there is no reason for such secrecy," he said.