Leung Chun-ying

Apec red faces caused by chief executive's 'lack of experience', says Henry Tang

Henry Tang says embarrassment over Aquino talks was caused by Leung not being schooled in diplomacy and he urges speed on reforms

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 October, 2013, 3:01pm

The embarrassment arising from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's talks with Philippine President Benigno Aquino at the Bali Apec summit stemmed from his lack of diplomatic experience, his election rival said yesterday.

"I think Leung is a smart person. He will learn a lesson from it and become smarter in future," said former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen. Tang also said time was running out for the consultation on political reform and it was disappointing that "nothing concrete" had been achieved on important issues so far.

During Leung's official talks with Aquino at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit on October 7, Aquino refused to offer an apology for the Manila hostage tragedy in 2010 in which eight Hongkongers were shot dead and seven injured.

In the meeting, the chief executive and two Hong Kong officials sat on one side, while Aquino sat alone at the centre of the room. Academics said this contradicted diplomatic norms, where leaders sit side by side even when both are not state leaders.

"Hong Kong and the Philippines are both members of Apec and they have equal status," Tang said. "The government should have been able to avoid this embarrassment."

Tang, who took part in multilateral trade talks when he was commerce minister and financial secretary, said Hong Kong officials could have reacted instantly after finding problems with the seating arrangement. "Perhaps they could have asked to change seats so the leaders were opposite each other," he said.

The defeated chief executive candidate, who said earlier that consultations on arrangements for the 2017 chief executive election should be launched by this month, said talks should start as soon as possible.

"As everyone is only focusing on putting forward their own ideas, nothing concrete has been achieved so far on the important issues," he told journalists in Shanghai. "As a matter of fact, time has run out."

"The election cannot be conducted smoothly unless thorough public discussions are held beforehand," Tang said. "Support from the pan-democratic groups is also needed.

"We have yet to take an initial step and there are actually five steps in the whole process to amend the electoral methods."

Leung had previously said consultations would start at a "suitable time" without giving an exact timetable.

During his tenure as chief secretary, Tang spearheaded government efforts to reform election methods for the city's top job and the Legco election in 2012.

In March, Tang was elected as a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Asked about his plans, he said he would spend more time on his family's businesses.

"I will never ever forget Hong Kong and I am willing to do what I can to help Hong Kong develop further," he said.

He was elected chairman of an education charity fund in Shanghai yesterday, replacing his father.