25 October 2016
Donald Tsang (inset) has picked the perfect time to break his long silence over damining allegations of misconduct in office. Photos: Bloomberg, Reuters
Donald Tsang (inset) has picked the perfect time to break his long silence over damining allegations of misconduct in office. Photos: Bloomberg, Reuters

Here’s why we’re hearing a lot from Donald Tsang

For more than four years after stepping down, former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang stayed silent about damning allegations over his conduct in office.

So when it was time to break his silence, Hong Kong’s longest serving senior official picked the moment.

He could do worse than Monday’s closed-door hearing, the first on the case.

Now we know that the case stemming from alleged misconduct in public office will be tried early next year.

But there was more than a mouthful from him.

After admitting he could have done a better job on public housing and that his deputy and now jailbird Rafael Hui Si-yan is his life-long friend whom he prayed for every day, he tackled another sensitive issue — Hong Kong independence.

He offered his words of wisdom on everything from six young, pro-independence politicians to a supposed religious cult. 

“If something is true, you can’t destroy it even if you want to. But if something is fake or empty, you do not need to do anything because it will disappear,” he told reporters.

A devout Catholic, Tsang told the story of a Judaism elder who calmed his followers worried about the rise of religious cults 2,000 years ago.

“No worries. We have seen many cult religions before. You just have to ignore them; they will disappear.”

Who is worried?

Apparently, Leung Chun-ying is running scared, not from any religious cult but from his own shadow.

When he overreacted to an article in a student publication about self-determination by giving it full play in his 2015 Policy Address, he created the conditions that gave rise to the independence movement.

His critics have derided him as the “father of Hong Kong independence”, and if that comes to pass, he would have richly deserved the title.

Still, while his popularity continues to sink like a stone, he seems to have gained some advantage by emerging as potentially Beijing’s best hope to tackle the separatists.

That could boost his chances of reelection in 2017, the main focus of his campaign to get the most radical localist candidates out of the way.  

To be sure, Tsang can relate to Leung’s predicament.

“When there are polarized views — no matter if these are left, right, internal or external — the gap gets wider because it divides people with neutral political stance,” Tsang said.

“But the more divided, the more difficult it is to communicate — and that is the challenge our society is facing today.”

Sing Tao Daily is reporting that many first-timers in the new Legislative Council have declined an invitation from Leung to a meeting, with the exception of Eddie Chu, Edward Yiu and several from the pro-establishment camp.

But Chu and Yiu have begged off from a one-on-one meeting with Leung, mindful of public perceptions.

Tsang’s interviews are expected to take some political heat off potential chief executive candidate John Tsang, his protege, and also create some positive publicity for himself.

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EJ Insight writer

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