Few expected the WhatsApp saga that has embroiled Jasper Tsang to end after he explained himself to the public and apologized to his peers.
Sure enough, it’s picking up steam and driving the rumor mill.
On Thursday evening, Tsang was part of a group of 40 pro-establishment lawmakers who had a meeting with Zhang Xiaoming, Beijing’s top official in Hong Kong.
Tsang reportedly apologized for his handling of last Thursday’s tumultuous events that led to the embarrassing defeat of the Beijing-designed election reform bill, so did the rest of the contingent.
It happens that he had another problem to explain to the Beijing Liaison Office chief after revelations hours earlier that he had taken part in a WhatsApp conversation with a group of his political allies when they staged a walkout, purportedly to delay the vote by denying it a quorum.
That resulted in all 33 lawmakers in the group unable to vote.
To be fair, Tsang was not responsible for the walkout but he is being blamed for its outcome nonetheless.
The story has taken on an air of conspiracy theory after reports one of his political allies leaked the conversation to the media.
One theory is that Tsang is being made a scapegoat amid intense infighting in the pro-establishment camp.
Another links forces loyal to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to a supposed plot to damage his reputation.
Tsang, who has a strong track record as president of the Legislative Council, is widely seen as a potential chief executive.
None of these claims has been substantiated but they are being regurgitated as facts.
Did Tsang even have to apologize for the election bill fiasco and set himself up for further blame?
He appeared to stick to Legco’s rules of procedure when he denied an attempt by the 33-strong walkout bloc to suspend proceedings for 15 minutes to give time to one of their own to get to the chamber.
Until the WhatsApp bombshell, Tsang had been seen above the fray.
The question is did his role in the online conversation break any rules or compromise his neutrality as presiding officer of the chamber?
Tsang insists it did not.
Non-believers will have to wait until more details emerge but there is enough information in the leaked transcript of the conversation to draw some conclusions.
Perhaps the most damning is that he appears to be giving advice on strategy to the walkout group.
Tsang says he was merely trying to keep proceedings on track by sharing information with the group but he did not seem to be having any conversation with legislators from the opposing camp.
In any case, he is forced to deal with the political fallout.
Tsang is perhaps the most open-minded establishment politician and the least rabid of the Beijing loyalists since becoming Legco president in 2008.
He has won admirers for his evenhanded leadership in Legco and for his moderate politics.
It’s a shame he is in such a mess.
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