Red Cross denies it has snubbed Leung's wife
A decision not to invite Regina Tong Ching-yee, the wife of the new chief executive, to be the president of the Red Cross was not political, the organisation said, even though its past two presidents were married to the city's leaders.
A Chinese-language newspaper said Tong was shunned because some council members did not like her husband, Leung Chun-ying, since his style was too 'ruthless'. Some said they would resign if Tong took the post, the report said.
Former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's wife, Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei, and Tung Chee-hwa's wife, Betty Tung Chiu Hung-ping, both served as president of the organisation.
Retired judge Ti-liang Yang, who has been Red Cross chairman for 14 years, took over from Selina Tsang on Sunday.
Many NGOs traditionally appoint leaders' wives to be their patrons or presidents. The Community Chest has appointed Tong as president, after Selina Tsang. The Girl Guides Association has also sent an invitation to Tong.
Red Cross secretary general Chan Kai-ming said the organisation had no rules saying the wife of the chief executive should be appointed as president. 'We regret that some people take it as a political decision. It's very important for the Red Cross to be politically neutral. We struggled in the meeting over whether our decision would be perceived politically,' Chan said.
A 30-member council decided to appoint Yang.
Before Selina Tsang and Betty Tung, Run Run Shaw served as the president for 26 years. Betty Tung had been on the committee for years before taking over from Shaw, but it was unclear why Selina Tsang became president.
Yang was the only candidate and the decision was 'almost unanimous', Chan said. '[Tong's] name was not even mentioned,' he said.
A council member told the South China Morning Post that one member said he did not want Leung's wife to be president because he did not 'want it to become a ritual'.
Chan said Yang had made 'great contributions' to the Red Cross. He wanted to retire from the chairman's post and join the advisory board. The council members then nominated him to be the president, which he accepted.
The Girl Guides Association said its constitution stated the wife of the chief executive should be invited to be its president. The association had been appointing the wives of the city's leaders to hold the post since the 1930s.