Hong Kong leadership hopeful John Tsang plays down rift with old boss and defends his own record

Former financial chief does not ‘say bad things about people’ and had a ‘professional relationship’ with Leung Chun-ying

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 11:51pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 9:43am

John Tsang Chun-wah remained tight-lipped over his apparent rift with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, declaring it was not in his nature “to say bad things about people”.

The former financial secretary’s remarks came after Leung, who had praised his key rival Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, openly questioned his election pledge to provide housing for 60 per cent of the city’s population.

It has been an open secret that Tsang and Leung had different philosophies on public finance.

Tsang declined to elaborate on his relationship with Leung when pressed by the Post during an interview on Thursday.

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“It’s not my nature to say bad things about people [but] we did have a professional relationship,” he said.

Tsang also dismissed suggestions that the tension within Leung’s cabinet had created deadlocks.

“There should be difference of views in every administration because we want to come up with the best solutions,” Tsang, a seasoned public servant, said. “I don’t think there are deadlocks as a lot of progress has been made in the administration.”

He also defended himself against accusations that he was too laid back and had remained mostly quiet in Executive Council meetings, even on policy areas under his purview.

“There are different stages of contributions by different people [in policy-making process] … if there are so many people having objections on the way that I carried out things, then I must be asserting my influence,” he said.

“I would be very, very disappointed if there is an administration that requires no discussion and one person would dictate anything that goes on in the administration.”

Tsang also rebutted remarks by Lam earlier in which the former chief secretary said the city’s leader should oversee the work of the financial chief and threatened to fire a disobedient finance chief if she was elected chief executive.

“The implication is that I have been disobedient,” he joked.

Tsang claimed he had provided enough resources for all initiatives that could be implemented in his nine-and-a-half years as financial chief, adding he had also examined whether initiatives could be implemented and were good value for money.

“There has always been a balance in government between those who spend and those who mind the coffers,” he said.

“Those are the responsibilities of the people who are minding the finances. That has always been the case for me and I don’t think it should change in future.”