26 October 2016
The first chief executive Tung Chee-hwa (left) is an upright figure but his successors Donald Tsang (center) and CY Leung have been hounded by scandals. Photos: HKEJ
The first chief executive Tung Chee-hwa (left) is an upright figure but his successors Donald Tsang (center) and CY Leung have been hounded by scandals. Photos: HKEJ

Tung, Tsang and Leung: An integrity check

Leung Chun-ying maintains solid connections with some senior party cadres, a political asset he has been building since the 1980s when he set foot in politics.

But the incumbent central leadership, especially Xi Jinping (習近平), may not know him well. So the nascent “luggagegate” can offer a glimpse of Leung’s level of personal integrity.

Of the three chief executives so far, Tung Chee-hwa is the most upright one.

No one questioned his integrity before and after his tenure, and he has lived up to his own dictum that being a senior civil servant “you have to be whiter than white”.

The only controversy, if there was one, could be the “Lexusgate”: Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung bought a Lexus sedan just weeks before he raised the tax on new vehicles in 2003 and Tung tried to defend his subordinate. Anthony Leung resigned later that year.

Donald Tsang Yam-kuen had a safe run throughout his civil service career, except in 1996 when he wrote to the Medical Council of Hong Kong requesting a waiver of qualification test for his elder son who graduated from a British medical school.

Yet his term as the top leader was plagued with allegations of perceived conflicts of interest, particularly before his retirement, when he accepted hospitality from his tycoon friends, like trips aboard yachts and private jets and a luxury rental home in Shenzhen.

His political career ended in a nasty manner when his popularity rating dropped even lower than that of Tung, who didn’t finish his second term.

The chain of incidents made Tsang the most senior former official charged by the anti-graft watchdog for misconduct in public office last October.

His case is still pending, fueling speculations that his political foes are using it to make sure that he will toe the line.

Leung is even worse than Tsang.

His record can be traced back to as early as 2001 when he was found not to have declared a conflict of interests when he was sitting on a jury that selected the masterplan for the West Kowloon Cultural District. Leung reportedly had dealings with one of the entrants.

An independent investigation panel set up by the Legislative Council expressed, in its report in 2012, surprise and regret over Leung’s misconduct and his “poor memory” during hearings.

Throughout the 2012 election Leung lost no chance attacking Henry Tang Ying-yen for unauthorized building structure found at his Kowloon Tong villa, never mind that his own house at the Peak also had illegal building works, and, as a chartered surveyor, he categorically denied that he was aware of the problem until after the media expose.

After he took office, he was involved in another scandal, this time about accepting a suspicious payment, HK$50 million, from UGL, a Sydney-based engineering firm, for not competing against UGL or poach any member of the senior management when it bought DTZ, a surveying firm that Leung co-founded. 

Many accuse him of continuing to offer service to the Australian firm in his official capacity, as later the media found UGL was awarded orders from MTR Corp.

And, those of Leung’s cohorts are equally questionable. 

Executive Councilor Franklin Lam Fan-keung’s suspected breach of Prevention of Bribery Ordinance in his property transactions drew an ICAC investigation.

Another member of his cabinet, Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, who also held numerous other public positions, also resigned in 2013 when both the police and the Securities & Futures Commission launched probes into wage arrears and other misconduct at the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange, which was founded by Cheung.

Another close ally, Secretary for Innovation and Technology Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung, was found opening two offshore entities in the British Virgin Islands when he was the pro-vice chancellor of the Polytechnic University and transferred substantial shares to a pro-Beijing businessman without notifying the PolyU council.

Alfred Chan Cheung-ping, the new chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, was exposed for receiving money from a Philippines-based state university that had been caught in a diploma mill scandal, and failed to declare it while he was working at Lingnan University.

From Leung and his underlings, now we know birds of a feather flock together.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 29.

Translation by Frank Chen

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Former full-time member of the Hong Kong Government’s Central Policy Unit, former editor-in-chief of the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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