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  • Aug 21, 2014
  • Updated: 9:38pm

Paul Chan Mo-po

Paul Chan Mo-po is Hong Kong's Secretary for Development. An accountant and the former President of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA), he was appointed by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying after the resignation of Mak Chai-kwong following a housing allowance scandal. In July 2013, Chan was accused of a conflict of interest when it was revealed that he or his family had an interest in a plot of land in the New Territories that the government had plans to develop.

NewsHong Kong

Legco chief warns government of falling into trap over Paul Chan affair

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 July, 2013, 1:33pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing warned the government on Wednesday that it risked facing the “Tacitus Trap” over its handling of the political scandal involving Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po.

The term “Tacitus Trap” comes from the Roman historian Publius Gornelius Tacitus (56-117 AD), who argued that neither good nor bad policies would please people if they resent their government. This was later called the ‘‘Tacitus Trap” by scholars. Tsang made the comments after Chan decided not to disclose any more details of his conflict-of-interest row involving the ownership of farmland in Kwu Tung North.

Chan is refusing to elaborate on how his once-bankrupt brother-in-law acquired the money to buy the farmland from his wife on Tuesday, saying it was a “personal matter”.

Tsang said on a RTHK radio programme people had higher expectations of government officials and expected them to be “whiter than white”. “They should draw a better line between their privacy and public interest,” he said. Tsang said that if the government lost further credibility it risked falling into the “Tacitus Trap”.

“[If this was to occur], whatever it said would be considered lies, whatever it does would be seen as bad acts,” he ventured.

Discussing Paul Chan’s handling of the affair, Tsang said: “He should come clean and apologise if he had unresolved conflicts of interests, or people might have an impression of him responding in a piecemeal manner.”

Tsang said recent polls had already showed public confidence in the government had been undermined by the affair.

He [Paul Chan] should come clean and apologise if he had unresolved conflicts of interests, or people might have an impression of him responding in a piecemeal manner
Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing

“The government should have realised from the beginning that Paul Chan’s land on Kwu Tung North would have stirred up criticism. Especially, when there are always people who want to pull down controversial re-development projects,” Tsang said. He believed it would hardly solve all problems even if Chan swapped roles with Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung. This was earlier suggested by New People’s Party lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun.

“The tasks under different bureaus are all very complicated, not anybody who takes the helm could cope with them easily,” he noted. People Power lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip has vowed to paralyse the Development Bureau by initiating another round of filibusters. Tsang said the lawmaker would pay for a political price for his actions. He urged both pan-democrats and pro-establishment parties to reach a consensus on a closure motion - a rule to halt filibuster, as soon as possible.

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