Donald Tsang

Muddy affair

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 March, 2012, 12:00am


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Beware, all you top politicians. The people have tasted blood, and they thirst for more. Have you fathered a child out of wedlock? If yes, destroy all pictures of the child. If one still surfaces, get your teary wife to publicly forgive you. Ever hobnobbed with our tycoons or triad bosses? Pray no one rats on you. Don't even think about selling your pricey wine collection and donating the proceeds to charity. Get sloshed instead.

If your son invites you to a Christmas family get-together at an upscale Macau hotel room, just say no. Do something more meaningful instead, like going to church. Ditch any plans of living in a swanky penthouse when you retire.

Search your past for political sins, such as an illegal basement or questionable conduct in judging an arts hub design contest. If you have sinned, use a megaphone to own up before you are found out. People, who won't be saints themselves, will still rush to cast the first stone.

That's the new price of politics. Are you willing to pay it? Do you mind having long-forgotten follies, innocent mistakes and political idiocies dredged up from the depths of your past to be presented as immoral or corrupt behaviour?

Is Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen corrupt or was he just politically stupid for believing it was OK to hitch rides on the yachts and planes of tycoons as long as he paid them the commercial fare?

Rich friends of the late Ronald Reagan bought him a US$3 million retirement home in California when he left the White House in 1989. He silenced his critics by repaying the money. Bill and Hillary Clinton left office with US$200,000 worth of gifts. Should they all have been investigated for corruption?

Presidents Clinton and John Kennedy both had extramarital affairs but did that make them ineffective leaders? In fact, both were highly popular presidents. It is well-known that, when Tony Blair was the British prime minister, he met regularly with media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. Was that a conflict of interest that made Blair unfit to lead?

We asked for democracy. Dirty politics is a part of that. We are now getting the first real taste of it. And we don't even have real democracy yet. Expect far worse when the chief executive is elected through universal suffrage in 2017.

Mud-slinging has its virtues. It helps light up dark corners that politicians may want to hide. But mud-slinging can also distort reality. The trick is to separate fiction from fact. It was fiction that Tsang benefited from the sale of his wine collection (he donated the HK$2million proceeds to charity). But the fiction still fuelled public perception that he is corrupt.

Are the scandals that tarred Tsang, Henry Tang Ying-yen and Leung Chun-ying serious enough to make them unfit leaders? Some even want Tsang to be impeached. Aren't we overreaching? Only two US presidents were impeached - Clinton and Andrew Johnson.

I have said before that Hong Kong is mature enough to handle democracy. But I now wonder if we are mature enough for the baggage that comes with it. Maybe not, judging from the crazed way we have reacted to the flood of scandals.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV host.