Hong Kong leadership rivals trade blows
Widely tipped contender stays mum on plans while rebutting potential rivals’ jibes
The facade of cabinet unity fell apart yesterday as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying launched into open warfare against his potential rival and subordinate, Financial Secretary John Tsang, upping the stakes in the Hong Kong leadership race.
Tsang, who spent mid-morning deflecting verbal blows Leung and another potential contender, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, had tried to inflict on him the day before, indicated he was inching towards a decision that was now “heaven’s secret”.
In the late afternoon, Leung published a blog titled “The buck stops here”, quoting from former American president Harry Truman, about a common phenomenon in Hong Kong – and in the government – where people liked “passing the buck” to each other. Unlike them, he would not shirk from his responsibility, he said.
“Many people in power want to be the good guy. They keep ducking their responsibilities and won’t make a decision,” he wrote.
“As the head of the government I can’t shirk from it, though I may offend people in dealing with controversies. It’s easy to be the good guy, and it takes courage and responsibility to be the ugly guy.”
He cited “many examples” where he took responsibility for tough decisions like land development, the independence issue and the oath-taking crisis.
Leung’s scathing assault did not name Tsang but few observers doubted whom he meant.
Tsang himself was in the spotlight with 1,000 students at Chinese University, fielding questions about the chief executive race a day after retired judge Woo Kwok-hing became the first to declare his candidacy.
Tsang shared his life story, tracing his youth and activism and fight against racism when he lived in the United States. Asked to confirm rumours he had written to Beijing stating his intention join the race, he said: “I would absolutely consider doing anything if that can contribute to Hong Kong. This remains the same. But I can’t say too much.”
Using a Cantonese phrase, he said it was “heaven’s secret” when he would make any decision.
To criticism from Ip that he had not accomplished much over the past decade, Tsang thanked her for her advice over the years. But as the former security chief, Ip should also know the post of the financial secretary was “very important”, Tsang said.
“If one can be idle at it for 10 years, [he] has quite a bit of talent,” he said.
He also had a response to Leung’s call for cabinet members to be “focused” and “dedicated” towards the current administration’s work, like preparing for the policy address and budget next year.
Tsang hit back saying: “The question is, we not only should look at the present, but also should look at the long-term situation ... All responsible officials should be thinking along these lines.”
His office also denied reports he would decline official invitations in his current role from January.
Woo, meanwhile, focused his attack on Leung while Ip went for Tsang again.
Woo said he agreed with pan-democratic lawmakers that Leung’s receipt of a HK$50 million payment from Australian firm UGL should be probed, as well as his role in the removal of a top investigator at the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
On her plans, Ip said she was preparing her platform, team and publicity, adding: “You can also ask Mr Tsang Chun-wah what is he waiting for. Some people are waiting for a message, then what is Mr Tsang waiting for?”