Tsang criticised after dining at Macau casino
Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who was on a private tomb-sweeping trip to Macau at the weekend, was photographed attending a casino-resort banquet there together with junket operators and high rollers, a move which has drawn criticism at home for a lack of political sensitivity.
The banquet was a spring gathering of the Li Ying Club - a VIP club at the luxurious City of Dreams resort - which reportedly invited some 800 guests to the feast. Hong Kong's Oriental Daily newspaper claimed that many of the guests were local junket operators running gambling-related syndicates in Macau, and high rollers, influential people in the city but with dubious backgrounds.
According to protocol, Hong Kong's chief executive and bureau chiefs must announce vacations and visits outside Hong Kong. Tsang's trip to Macau went unreported.
Tsang and his wife, Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei, were attending the banquet when they were photographed by Hong Kong journalists. Tsang, who was dining with other guests, appeared embarrassed and surprised when he was approached and photographed by a journalist from Oriental Daily. He briefly tried to shield himself from the camera with a hand. The couple left the room with some other guests shortly afterwards.
According to Oriental Daily, Tsang was sharing a table with tycoon Thomas Lau Luen-hung and Sing Tao News chairman Charles Ho Tsu-kwok.
Macau bans its civil servants from gambling. There is no equivalent rule in Hong Kong. There were no officials from Macau at the banquet.
A spokesman from the Hong Kong Chief Executive's Office said yesterday that Tsang and his wife had not done anything improper and that they did not go to a casino. Tsang was in a hotel part of City of Dreams and did not enter the gambling floor.
'Tsang was on a short trip to Macau last weekend on a private visit, which also included tomb sweeping,' the spokesman said.
He said there was no need to announce a short visit.
The spokesman said the couple 'spent time with friends' to watch a show by Taiwanese singer Fei Yu-ching at a 'hotel'. He said Tsang decided to leave early because he did not want to disturb other guests after he was spotted by journalists.
The spokesman said the chief executive was 'not aware' of the background of other guests. The City of Dreams was unreachable for comment. Many critics yesterday said the visit was inappropriate.
'The chief executive is a 24-hour job,' said lawmaker Wong Sing-chi. 'I think there should be an acting person in Tsang's absence, no matter how short it is. It has to be made sure that there is someone to lead Hong Kong.' Wong said Tsang should avoid being associated with a casino. 'The incident may show that he is being careless about his duties.'
Tsang is going to step down in a few months after completing his second term as chief executive.