Public dissatisfied with Tsang apology
Thomas Chan and Tanna Chong
The chief executive's use of luxury hotel suites on official trips was unacceptable, and so was his recent apology for it, according to a majority of Hongkongers who responded to two recent surveys on the issue.
In a survey by the political group New Century Forum, 77.2 per cent of respondents said they were unhappy about Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's use of presidential suites on official overseas trips. The survey was conducted between Friday and Tuesday, and 914 people were interviewed. Nearly 60 per cent said the chief executive's emotional apology for his handling of the matter was unacceptable.
'Instead of a not-so-tearful apology, he should make a sincerer one,' said New Century Forum's Chan Wai-keung.
Last week a survey by the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood (ADPL) found a similar proportion - 78 per cent - called Tsang's behaviour inappropriate. Yet out of about 200 respondents, only 35 per cent said Tsang should step down.
While that figure seemed low, ADPL vice-chairman Tam Kwok-kiu said, the chief executive should observe the rules of the 'accountability system' of ministerial responsibility and justify his actions to the public.
The Democratic Party said yesterday it would ask Tsang to resign.
Following the disclosure of Tsang's stays in a US$6,900-a-night presidential suite in a Brasilia hotel and a US$1,250-a-night suite in Sau Paulo, and his acceptance of trips on tycoons' yachts and private planes, the chief executive was faulted by the Audit Commission for lavish spending on the Brazil visit and other official trips. An independent committee led by former chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang said it was 'totally inappropriate' the chief executive was not covered by rules banning other public officials from accepting advantages.
Chan, of the New Century Forum, said lawmakers should impeach Tsang and the chief executive should repay the difference between the high-priced hotel suites he used on trips and those for less lavish rooms.
Seventy per cent of respondents to the New Century Forum survey agreed Prevention of Bribery Ordinance provisions covering public servants should be extended to cover the chief executive, a suggestion Tsang's government rejected in 2008.
The provisions - which cover soliciting or accepting an advantage, and bribing public servants - apply only to politically appointed officials and civil servants.
'As well as extending the law to cover the chief executive, the incoming administration should promptly implement the recommendations listed in the investigation reports [of the Audit Commission and the independent panel],' Chan said.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating Tsang's acceptance of the free yacht and plane trips on suspicion of graft.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party plans to table a motion during Friday's meeting of the Legislative Council's house committee 'requesting' Tsang resign and repay the difference between the cost of presidential hotel suites he stayed in and more economical hotel rooms.
The party wanted to move a confidence motion, but house committee chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee said it had no power to hold votes of confidence in officials. 'I agree the substance of the issue should be discussed, and there are precedents for the committee to 'request' officials do something,' she said.
Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said such a request would be 'morally binding'.
This percentage of New Century Forum's interviewees felt the Bribery Ordinance should be amended to cover the chief executive