With friends like these, who needs enemies?
That might well have been the question on the lips of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying yesterday as he issued a denial of allegations by a former supporter that he lied over illegal structures at his homes on The Peak.
Twenty-four hours after his accuser-in-chief, Lew Mon-hung, sparked a media frenzy by turning on the man he backed to become leader, Leung took to the airwaves to calm the storm.
Asked on ATV's Newsline if there was any truth to Lew's claim he lied over the illegal structures and considers pan-democrats the "enemy", Leung said: "Not at all … What he said about my homes is not true.'' And on the democrats: "I invite them to breakfasts, lunches and dinners but not all of them turn up. I consider them - I consider all lawmakers - as partners.''
Then, as if to cement his denial, the chief executive went on to reaffirm he aims to become China's first democratically elected leader by seeking a second term in 2017. "That will be my target. But I will need the co-operation of everyone in Hong Kong, including the Legislative Council. I have not changed my mind. Many of the issues and challenges we face will take more than five years to tackle."
Leung's denial will do little to stop his detractors in the pan-democratic camp, who yesterday called for a Legislative Council grilling of both men and the invoking of special powers to do so - a move doomed to fail without the support of Legco's Beijing loyalists.
Meanwhile Lew, erstwhile factory worker and member of the nation's top political advisory body, was in Beijing and standing by the allegations made in an interview with iSun Affairs magazine, whose publisher is Chen Ping, a non-executive director of Pearl Oriental Oil, the listed company of which Lew is deputy chairman and executive director.
Lew, whose nickname is "Dream Bear", says his attack on Leung is in response to an Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation into Pearl Oriental Oil.
The businessman, who fled to Hong Kong from Dongguan in 1973 to clean factory floors, is no stranger to controversy. Born in Taishan , Guangdong, in 1948, he completed his secondary education in 1966 as the Cultural Revolution got under way. He was sent to "serve in villages" in Dongguan in the late 1960s.
In a 2009 interview he said his proudest moment was fleeing to Hong Kong, a thrill-packed six-day journey by land and sea.
The same year Lew - who has a son and two daughters - claimed to have been the victim of a kidnap attempt during a trip to Dongguan, boasting that he outwitted his captors: "There were daggers and a gun pointing at me. But I was never afraid."
A member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, he can't always be relied on to toe the party line.
In 2011, he urged Beijing to investigate the sentencing of Zhao Lianhai, an activist fighting for the rights of melamine-tainted-milk victims on the mainland. Zhao was jailed for 2-1/2 years and later released on medical parole.
Last year, Lew also wrote to Beijing, urging central authorities to look into the death of democracy activist Li Wangyang in a hospital in Hunan . Lew challenged official claims that Li hanged himself and took out full-page advertisements to protest against the provincial government's handling of the case.
Closer to today's fall-out with the man he helped to become king, during the scandal-hit leadership battle between Leung and Henry Tang Ying-yen, Lew described himself as a key adviser and key supporter of Leung. Indeed, in this week's interview with iSun Affairs, he described himself as "the first celebrity" to back the unpopular Leung.
At the peak of the chief executive election race Lew was smeared as a "triad associate'' and described as a "negative asset" for Leung after media disclosures that he and some of Leung's election team members attended a dinner at which a triad-linked businessman known as "Shanghai Boy" was present.