Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had one of the darkest days in his trouble-plagued administration yesterday when he lost two of his most important aides.
Executive councillor and Urban Renewal Authority chairman Barry Cheung Chun-yuen's departure on leave after the Mercantile Exchange, which he chairs, came under police investigation, was seen as the heaviest blow to date.
It coincided with news of the resignation of information co-ordinator June Teng Wai-kwan, Leung's top media official, due to eye problems.
Cheung's leave from all public positions in particular would raise questions about Leung's ability to choose his aides, said political commentator Ivan Choy Chi-keung.
"It's not the first time Leung has faced such doubts. Franklin Lam Fan-keung, Lew Mong-hung and Mak Chai-kwong were all embroiled in controversies," he said.
Former development minister Mak quit within 12 days of his appointment and is now on trial for fraud.
Lam has had his executive councillor post suspended after coming under investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
And former Leung supporter Lew has to report to graft-busters investigating claims that he perverted the course of justice.
As Cheung is Leung's closest aide - he headed Leung's election campaign office - his temporary departure is the chief's biggest blow so far, Choi said.
It cast doubts on Leung's credibility - whether he overlooked Cheung's debts intentionally and continued to appoint him to important positions.
New People's Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said the incident would have a negative impact on the Executive Council's image. But she believed it would not affect the council's impartiality and its operation as both Leung and Cheung acted swiftly.
Fellow lawmaker James To Kun-sun said that while the probe was still underway, it was hard to say Leung had chosen the wrong man. "Barry was very capable … as Urban Renewal Authority chairman," he said.