Tang's supporters should think twice

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2012, 12:00am


It is a shame that scandal-plagued Henry Tang Ying-yen has defied public opinion and formally signed up for the chief executive election. Despite a growing public consensus that he should pull out, the beleaguered hopeful sought to make his candidacy a fait accompli by swiftly submitting nominations from nearly one-third of the 1,200-member Election Committee. Uncertainties about the election aside, the move has provoked further public outrage and risks pushing Hong Kong into a state of crisis. If Tang's cover-up of an illegally built 'underground palace' inside a luxurious Kowloon Tong house was not bad enough, the latest allegations of yet another extramarital affair should put his integrity beyond salvation. If the coming poll was based on one person, one vote, the disgraced former chief secretary would not have come forward and risked a humiliating defeat.

But in reality, the community does not hold the key to Tang's political future. The choice rests with the 1,200 members of the voting panel, most of whom vote according to what they believe is Beijing's choice. That is why Tang still put himself forward, even when an opinion poll commissioned by this paper last week showed more than half of the people wanted him to withdraw.

Regrettably, 378 members have already acted against public sentiment to send Tang formally into the race. Among them are influential tycoons and property developers, who may think Tang could take better care of their interests despite his faults than other candidates. However, it is wrong for these 'small circle' voters to put their own interests ahead of the public good.

It remains unclear if Tang can fend off Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and Tsang Yok-sing, but his decision to stay in the race has made their bids more difficult. The two heavyweights each have their circle of supporters and opponents. It is be up to them to prove they are worthy challengers and secure the nominations to run.

Tang has been touted as Beijing's preferred candidate. But it is doubtful whether that remains the case after his integrity has been called into question. Inevitably, his refusal to quit has put Beijing in a difficult position as signs of unwavering support will be taken as evidence that the election has a pre-determined winner. Worse, it risks provoking the public further and triggering a crisis if he is allowed to govern with his integrity in shreds. It is, therefore, essential that Beijing takes into account the views of the people. Tang has vowed to regain the people's trust. However, a breach of faith is the worse failure for a politician. It is good to hear that some nominees have already said they would not necessarily vote for Tang. Likewise, those who were prepared to vote for him should also think twice. It would not be in Hong Kong's interest to return a leader who cannot command the trust and support of the people.