Donald Tsang

An honest public servant who just wants a quiet life

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 October, 2011, 12:00am

When Donald Tsang Yam-kuen completes his tenure as chief executive on June 30 next year, he'll have notched up 16,240 days as a public servant - 2,567 of them in the 'pressure cooker' office of the chief executive.

That is almost half a century. It is hardly surprising, then, that the man they call 'Bowtie' - because of his trademark choice of neckwear - is planning a quiet retirement.

Switching to a lucrative job in the private sector is a route well travelled by many civil servants, but that option is out for Tsang, who says he wants a more private life after he takes his final bow.

'After my retirement, I will certainly not engage in any commercial activities. I do not want any directorships,' said Tsang in the drawing room of the new Chief Executive's Office at Tamar.

'I have a lot of hobbies which I want to pursue more seriously. I want to do more photography and I want to see my grandchild more often than now and play with her. I want to learn something - new things.'

Tsang's younger brother, former police commissioner Tsang Yam-pui, became a managing director of NWS Holdings (now a listed company) and a chairman of Newton Resources after retiring in 2004.

Tsang's former colleague Frederick Ma Si-hang, who resigned as secretary for commerce and economic development in 2008 because of a brain tumour, joined the listed China Strategic Holdings a year later as its chairman.

Tsang said learning the importance of being silent would be his retirement task, and he would leave public life to do just that.

'I must leave for a while so that I won't be grilled by people like you and others ... I don't want to comment on anything done by my successor. Mr Tung [Chee-hwa] has set a very good example and I will do the same,' said Tsang, referring to his predecessor.

However, he added: 'I will be living in Hong Kong. My home is here.'

Proposing the 'Guangdong Scheme' in his last policy address, which allows elderly Hongkongers to claim their old age allowance while residing in Guangdong, the 67-year-old said that might be a good choice for his retirement as well.

'Good idea. But I am not qualified for the old age allowance yet,' said Tsang, who will have to wait two more years before he can claim the benefit, which is not means-tested.

Asked what he would like to be remembered for after 45 years as a public servant, 'honesty' was all he would ask for. Let the public decide the rest, he said.

'On the internet, there are tonnes of materials written about me, and there is YouTube as well. It is very difficult for people to forget me,' he said. 'So how exactly I will be remembered will be a matter for people to decide. All I want is [to be remembered as] a public servant, an honest public servant of Hong Kong.'


The year Donald Tsang joined the government as an executive officer - the same year that leftist-inspired riots rocked Hong Kong