Former financial secretary John Tsang denies conflict of interest and hits out at lack of promotion for RTHK programme

Government hit back, urging Tsang to provide details of his filming for the advisory committee to approve

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 October, 2017, 9:27pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 October, 2017, 11:32pm

Former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and government authorities have become ensnared in a political row over the failed chief executive contender’s appearance on a new RTHK programme.

Tsang has accused RTHK, the government-owned broadcaster, of suspending promotion of a TV series he will host, according to a report in Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao on Saturday.

RTHK employees claimed their leaders were given orders or were under pressure from the government to put the series on hold, Tsang said, because he did not notify the government advisory committee about the filming.

Tsang will host a 10-episode series for RTHK, as well as guest on a radio programme for rival station Commercial Radio.

Tsang, speaking through a spokesman on Saturday afternoon, stressed he was not paid for the filming and recording and was not employed by any organisations.

According to a guidance note for post-office employment, politically appointed officials are not allowed to “commence any employment, become a director or a partner in any business or profession or start any business or profession on his or her own account or with others”, that would likely constitute a conflict of interest with their former work in the first year after they step down.

Tsang said he did not seek a request from the committee as filming did not fall into these categories.

The guidance does not state clearly whether anyone taking up non-profit work has to file a request to the advisory committee.

The government fired back on Saturday evening, urging Tsang to provide details of his filming for the advisory committee to approve.

“Considering his former high status in the government, we call for Tsang to provide more information to clear the public’s doubts,” the government source said.

Although Tsang was not paid, the source said the advisory committee would consider other factors including any possibility of leaking confidential information.

The five committee members are external individuals appointed by the chief executive.

The government source also admitted they had notified RTHK that Tsang did not get approval for the post-office work.

RTHK’s head of corporate communications, Amen Ng Man-yee, confirmed to the Post that the chief executive’s office had inquired about Tsang’s filming. But Ng dismissed Tsang’s claims that the promotion of the series was on hold and that it was just too early to start.

“It was scheduled to air in November and it is common practice for us to launch promotion one to two weeks earlier,” she said.

Tsang will also take an unpaid, part-time teaching role at the University of Hong Kong. The government source said Tsang gave more information to the government after related reports were published, and it was agreed that Tsang did not need to declare the teaching work to the committee.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting accused the government of double standards on the post-office arrangements of Tsang and former chief executive Leung Chun-ying.

Leung only reported to the government of his new appointment as a director at two companies after it was reported, yet the government did not take action.