Democrats ask who is lying in Tsang vote row

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 May, 2010, 12:00am

Pan-democrats said on Friday that Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing told them Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen asked him to defy convention by voting for the government's electoral reforms.

Yesterday the chief executive denied contacting Tsang about the proposal and whether he should vote for it. Now pan-democrats want Tsang to tell them whether he or the chief executive is telling the truth.

Unionist Lee Cheuk-yan, who was among 10 pan-democrats at a private meeting with the president on Friday, reaffirmed he told them the chief executive had asked him to vote in favour of the proposal.

'He [the president] took the initiative and said the chief executive contacted him and asked him to vote, and suggested the president did not need to resign for the vote,' Lee said yesterday, revealing specific details about the conversation held between the president and lawmakers.

However, the chief executive issued a statement in which he denied he had contacted the president on the constitutional reform proposal or other policies.

Lee said he had been telephoned by the chief executive yesterday. 'The chief executive sounds upset with the row and stressed to me that he has not contacted the president on the reform proposal,' Lee said.

'It is very clear that one of them has not told the truth.'

The statement issued by the Chief Executive's Office yesterday said: 'The chief executive has never been in contact or discussion with the Legco president, Tsang Yok-sing, regarding his voting preference for constitutional reform proposals.

'The hearsay is groundless, which we deeply regret. The chief executive has high regard for the president's special status and has not discussed with him any government policies, including the issue of constitutional development.'

After the release of the chief executive's statement, Tsang Yok-sing (pictured) responded from the Shanghai Expo, which he and other legislative councillors are visiting.

'The chief executive and other government officials have never given me any pressure regarding the vote on constitutional reform,' he said. 'It is also impossible for them to pressure me.'

But he declined to say whether or not any government official had contacted him about the reform proposal in private. 'I would not comment on my private conversations with anyone,' he said.

In an RTHK interview on April 29, Tsang Yok-sing revealed that an official had asked him to vote even if he had to resign - which would allow him to avoid breaching the convention that the Legco president remain impartial.

Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung, said Tsang Yok-sing had been ambiguous. He had only said that he had not been pressured regarding the political proposal and had not said whether or not the chief executive had talked to him. 'All the people know the Legco president was a headmaster and is very good at playing with words, but he should give a clear explanation on what has happened as this will affect the integrity of the president,' Choy said.

Two lawmakers who attended the meeting, Cyd Ho Sau-lan and Kam Nai-wai, backed Lee Cheuk-yan.

'Personally I say Lee is not the kind of person who lies,' Kam said.

'Lee told the truth, and the people involved in the conversation should make a public clarification,' Ho said.

Lawmakers Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, Ronny Tong Ka-wah, Albert Ho Chun-yan, Fred Li Wah-ming, Cheung Man-kwong, Fredrick Fung Kin-kee, and Joseph Lee Kok-long were the others at the meeting.

'It is clear that one of the two, either the chief executive or the Legco president, is lying,' Tong said.

'As this case affects the integrity of the Legco president, and the chief executive has denied the claim, the president should clarify whether he was telling the truth.'

Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho said no one should lie. But he would not comment on the conversation at Friday's meeting.

Cheung said the government should respect Legco's independence and not solicit the president's vote.