'Beijing knew Tang was compromised'
Henry Tang Ying-yen's affairs were brought to Beijing's attention before the recent intensification of scandals involving the chief executive hopeful, over fears they could impair a future administration's credibility, according to a well-placed source.
'I conveyed to Beijing a month ago or so that the illegitimate relationships raised the danger of subjecting the future administration to blackmail. I advised such a situation should be averted as soon as possible,' the source, who is trusted by the central government, said.
Lawmakers agreed yesterday that Tang's scandals might make the next government a laughing stock if he were to head it, but that they were unlikely to be a source of blackmail.
Tang admitted in October that he had strayed in his love life, but he has so far declined to comment on rumours that he fathered an illegitimate child. He said this week that he would not comment as he did not want 'the third person to be harmed by others'. And yesterday, he again declined to comment on a picture, said to be of his illegitimate daughter, which was published by a Chinese-language newspaper.
Sing Tao News chairman Charles Ho Tsu-kwok, who nominated Tang for chief executive, said that it would be hard to criticise a candidate for fathering a child out of wedlock if his spouse forgave him. 'If it [fathering an illegitimate child] happened some 20 years ago and his wife... said she had forgiven him, it would be hard for outsiders to criticise him, right?'
Asked if Tang should reveal the identity of any illegitimate child, Ho said that he only had to abide by the government's rules on such matters.
Pan-democratic candidate Albert Ho Chun-yan said Tang might not need to make a full disclosure as long as the substance of it only related to his private life. 'The public should make clear whether the behaviour is related to public duties. If it's only a private affair, I don't think the public needs to [know everything],' Ho said.
Former civil service secretary Joseph Wong Wing-ping said there was no rule requiring officials to disclose the existence of illegitimate children as part of integrity checks. 'Even if a person has an illegitimate child, it doesn't mean the person is not suitable to be a civil servant,' he added.
Wong said integrity checks were administrative measures that did not carry legal weight, suggesting that there would be no legal fallout for Tang for failing to declare extramarital affairs. He added that it was a 'grey area' in the check system, but did not agree it needed cleared up.
Labour Party chairman and lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said the scandals would be a source of ridicule for Tang if he were elected, but that blackmail was unlikely. '[Tang's position] can't get worse after the recent scandals. It would not hurt him much more to reveal the identity of his [if any] illegitimate child,' he said, adding that Tang could not avoid the matter forever if he was elected.
Civic Party lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said she thought the declaration of interest rules relating to the identification of immediate family members would also apply to illegitimate children.
The government did not confirm yesterday whether integrity checks had legal weight or whether officials are required to declare the existence of illegitimate children.