I've got no plans to run for chief executive, Antony Leung tells students

Former financial secretary says he has 'no plans' to run for chief executive - but sets out his views on a range of issues for students

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 April, 2014, 3:26am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 April, 2014, 8:24am

Former financial chief Antony Leung Kam-Chung yesterday said he had "no plans" to run for chief executive in 2017 - as he warned of the dangers of leaders who were "competent" but lacked "morals" in a speech to students.

Leung was tipped as a contender for the 2017 race late last year after breaking a 10-year silence on political issues by co-hosting a series of lunch discussions on political reform with Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing.

Leung last year dismissed the idea of a run for the top job as "imaginative". Speaking to about 100 Institute of Education students yesterday, he set out the qualities that made a good or bad leader and gave his clearest hint yet that he would not be a candidate.

"Competent people who lack morals are the most dangerous, I would rather prefer incompetent people who have a [sense of] morality," he said.

When asked whether he would stand for the top job when Hongkongers elect their leader for the first time, Leung replied: "I have no such plan ... I'm only sharing my experience."

Since being forced to quit in 2003 in a scandal over his purchase of a luxury car just before he increased taxes on vehicle registration, Leung has focused on business. He became CEO of property developer Nan Fung last year after heading Greater China operations for US-based private equity giant Blackstone.

While the theme of his speech was how to cope with globalisation and the challenges of the "volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous" modern world, he touched on plenty of hot local issues as well.

Alongside the rise of new technology and an ageing population, Leung said one modern, international trend was that "under a 'one man, one vote' electoral system, governments would usually and easily create a serious financial deficit, and when they use up all of their reserves, they need to borrow".

"Politicians would usually say 'we are working for the well-being of you and your children' … but to win votes, they may provide more welfare while having more tax cuts," he warned. "That's why we see serious deficits in Western countries."

His comments echoed warnings by Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and his advisers that that city faces fiscal dangers despite its huge financial reserves as it tackles the challenges of an ageing population.

Returning to the theme of leadership, Leung added: "The best leaders … are those with a capable team, because a good leader can attract even better people to work for him. And a leader cannot be lonely, because your team may consist of at least hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of people.

"A leader must not follow the people's sentiments … he must think about the problem and look beyond the people's vision and tell them the direction."

And Leung drew on his own experience of converting to Christianity after quitting over the "Lexusgate" affair to reiterate the importance of morals and values.

"If people only believe in this life, and do not have the hope for eternity, nor the fear of divine judgment, they could do very horrible things," he said.

"There should be more love, understanding and acceptance in our society," Leung added. "People should not just [look at things] from a perspective critical of the government."