Tang has no option but to quit the race

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2012, 12:00am


Pressure on Henry Tang Ying-yen to pull out of the chief executive race is escalating after more details about the illegal structures at his properties have come to light. His integrity has been seriously compromised, so much so that public confidence in him as a trustworthy leader has been shaken even before he takes the seat of power. It will be very difficult for him to continue the race now. The option for him is clear: he should withdraw from the election.

One oversight is perhaps not fatal. But attempts to cover up one's mistakes are political suicide. The chief executive hopeful has given the impression that he has not been telling the truth as the fiasco continues to unfold. Once again, he has counted on his wife to defuse the bombshell. In a media session with her, a beleaguered Tang was adamant that he had never lied or sought to cover up the situation. He said he had not spent much time on resolving the issue, saying his marriage was at a 'low ebb' at that time. He said he might have sounded ambiguous when responding to the media over the past few days, but that he did not want to drag his wife into the furore. His wife, who fought back tears, said she was responsible for commissioning the unauthorised works. If this scandal is Tang's first test of crisis management, the businessman-turned-minister has failed miserably. The question has been simple and clear from the very beginning. Did you knowingly build a wine cellar without authorisation? Instead of giving a straightforward answer, he appeared to have played with words and repeatedly dodged the key question to play down the controversy. But his statements have been unconvincing and his explanations have only raised more questions.

Tang has failed many who support him as a worthy contestant. He sought to defuse the first scandal that rocked his campaign by admitting he had 'strayed' in his marriage. The episode, while it caused grave damage to his popularity, did not stop him from campaigning. But the recent scandal is much more serious. It calls into question Tang's political integrity. There is no better indication of one's imminent downfall than having your allies turning their backs on you. The Liberal Party, whose members had pledged to nominate Tang, has said it will reconsider how to vote. Others who have nominated him have pledged not to vote for him if Tang is proved to be dishonest.

Tang is appealing to the people to give him another chance. But it is too late. A breach of faith is the worst failure for a politician. The damning revelations only undermine public trust in Tang. Even if he continued and won the election, it would not be a convincing victory. Worse, it would anger the public and trigger a crisis if he is allowed to govern with his integrity in shreads. Tang has no other option but to pull out of the race.