A year ago, Andy Tsang, then outgoing police commissioner, told RTHK that he would not run for public office or do business after his retirement.
Later during a tea break with reporters, he said he would rather do volunteer work and that he might accept a token salary of HK$1 “if people insist”.
Tsang managed to regain some of his popularity with his plan to go into public service at a time when relations between the public and the police were at a record low in the aftermath of the democracy protests.
However, just one year into his retirement — and shortly after his post-retirement employment ban expired – Tsang applied to the Civil Service Bureau for permission to work as a human resources consultant for a big company.
Tsang will receive HK$1 million a year, according to reports.
When reminded about his earlier promise, Tsang said he is “not doing any business. I’m just a consultant”.
Tsang and certain other principal officials in Leung Chun-ying’s government have become masters at distorting their own public statements.
Leung himself is not above making tricky comments.
These officials twist commonly accepted definitions and basic facts to fill gaps in their inconsistent statements, justify wrongdoing or explain away mistakes.
Tsang is getting the hang of the script.
When he said he is not doing any business by getting hired as a consultant for that much money, he was no different from a bureau chief who said he did not enter politics to join Leung’s cabinet.
Even a five-year-old can tell the argument doesn’t make sense.
That kind of tactic to talk their way out of trouble or deceive the public is one reason Hongkongers are increasingly disaffected with this administration.
Still, Tsang can expect to receive approval from the government.
As far as the Civil Service Bureau is concerned, integrity is not a factor in approving such applications.
But by no means is it a done deal. Given growing public concern, the Civil Service Bureau can exercise its discretion even though Tsang technically meets all the requirements.
Hongkongers might still remember Leung Chin-man, the former Permanent Secretary for Housing, whose hiring by New World Development Ltd. in 2008 caused a firestorm of controversy.
The decision to approve his employment by then Secretary for Civil Service Denise Yue was questioned by pan-democrats and members of the public.
Due to enormous public pressure, New World Development was forced to terminate Leung’s contract prematurely.
After the incident, then Chief Executive Donald Tsang appointed a commission of inquiry to review the rules on post-civil service employment.
In its final report in July 2009, the committee proposed key changes to improve the regime which were largely adopted by the administration.
The proposals included provisions on potential conflict of interest and measures to protect the reputation and credibility of the government, as well as defend the public interest.
If Andy Tsang’s new job is at odds with any of these measures, chances are his application will be rejected by the Civil Service Bureau.
The public is skeptical about Tsang’s personal integrity and the government’s credibility in handling matters of grave public concern such as police brutality during the 2014 street protests.
Perhaps the business sector should also think twice before hiring retired senior officials.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 11.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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