The Hong Kong government’s proposal to let directors obscure their identities on company registers is a retrograde step that will facilitate fraud and corruption.

Don’t take a journalist’s word for it. Don’t listen to the legal profession, which said in 2009 that ID numbers should be fully disclosed. Don’t pay heed to the accountants and corporate governance experts who warn that access to such information is vital. And don’t worry about the investors who say Hong Kong’s public registries have helped bring transparency and accountability to official and corporate dealings.

Just take the word of the government’s own advisory committee for it. Restricting access to ID numbers "may deprive the public of a means of uniquely identifying individuals, and might make it easier for the dishonest to escape creditors, or otherwise engage in fraudulent activity,” the standing committee on company law reform said in a 2009 consultation paper. "The option of masking 3 or 4 digits of an identification number would not serve the purpose of identifying a person as there are cases of persons with the same name having similar identity card numbers.'