In many instances, conflict of interest is against the law but in all respects it’s a crime against integrity.
Leaders are sworn to uphold transparency. Disclosure, however, is a trickier thing and is often made for expedience.
Which is why Leung Chun-ying must have thought that whatever he does outside his official duties is no one else’s business.
That is a problem because as Hong Kong leader, he is its chief executive at all times, in all places. His official responsibilities don’t stop at the door.
Leung is embroiled in yet another controversy after Next Magazine suggested impropriety in his dealings with Chinese Estates Holdings chairman Lau Ming-wai and their outcome.
It said Lau made a donation to a Hong Kong-based research center run by Sweden’s Karolinska Institute in which Leung’s son has just been admitted as a research fellow.
Earlier, it was reported that Leung had tapped Lau for a senior role in a proposed innovation and technology bureau — since scuttled after a Legco filibuster last week derailed funding for the agency.
The Next Magazine report went on to detail intricate relationships between Leung and certain powerful individuals.
Both Leung and Lau have denied the allegations.
But if these claims are true, they prove that Leung, Lau and all concerned had no plans to make a public disclosure.
Public records show Leung visited Karolinska Institute in May last year. Next Magazine said Leung then discussed witn Lau a proposed partnership with Karolinska in Hong Kong.
In October, Lau reportedly met Karolinska representatives and finalized a deal. In January, Leung’s son was admitted to the institute as a post-doctoral research fellow.
Lau’s HK$390 million donation to Karolinska was announced on Feb. 2, with Leung attending the ceremony.
It’s quite clear from the reports that Leung initiated the whole thing.
But if he thought none of it was improper, why did he feel it necessary to dissociate himself from the Lau donation and insist that it had nothing to do with his son being admitted into Karolinska.
It seems that the first casualty here is the truth but the biggest blow is to Leung’s integrity.
The allegations came just months after damning revelations that he had received millions of dollars in secret payments from an Australian company after he became chief executive “in exchange for his help” earlier.
How much was he letting the public on when he denied misconduct in that instance?
There’s no suggestion Leung used his position to introduce Karolinska to potential Hong Kong donors, but who can blame people from thinking that?
And who can blame them for speculating about his government’s softly, softly approach to the case of troubled Asia Television Ltd. (ATV) over its license renewal?
Leung is being linked to the ATV saga through his alleged “cozy” relationship with businessman Payson Cha, who has a minority interest in the broadcaster.
It’s hard to tell where the truth lies in all this. That’s why speculation is running rampant.
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