As row with government rumbles on, former Hong Kong finance chief John Tsang plugs TV show

Defeated chief executive candidate insists he did not need to declare work with broadcaster RTHK, because it was unpaid, and says he is waiting to hear from Chief Executive’s Office

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 November, 2017, 10:01pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 November, 2017, 10:58pm

Hong Kong’s former financial chief John Tsang Chun-wah was out and about promoting his new television show on Saturday, as his dispute with government authorities over his post-office employment with RTHK rumbled on.

Tsang said he was still waiting for a response from officials about whether needed to declare his unpaid work with the public broadcaster after being in touch via email with top staff at Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s office.

Both sides have been locked in a dispute since October over a 10-episode television series called Hong Kong Stories – Repair Time that Tsang helped produce with RTHK.

The failed chief executive candidate first accused the government-owned broadcaster of suspending promotion of the series because he had not told a government advisory committee about the filming. RTHK has dismissed the claims.

Lam in response urged her former colleague and competitor in the Hong Kong leadership race this year to “respect the system” like other officials who need to formally declare any work after leaving government.

Tsang reiterated that he believed it unnecessary for him to notify a government advisory committee about his activities because they were not to be counted as employment.

“The guidelines are very clear, there is no need for me to declare such work ... I don’t think there has been the slightest disrespect [to the system],” Tsang said on the sidelines of promoting his show on Saturday.

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“As someone who has worked in the government for over 30 years, I know the importance of a well-established system and this should not be damaged,” he said.

According to a guidance note, 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 probably constitute a conflict of interest with their previous role in the first year after they step down.

The guidance does not clearly state whether anyone taking unpaid work has to file a request with the advisory committee.

Tsang added that he was waiting for a response from Jessie Ting Yip Yin-mei, permanent secretary of Lam’s office, “for further instruction” over the issue.

A spokesman from the Chief Executive’s Office said they did not have any further comment on the matter.

Tsang’s appearance on Saturday was the first formal promotion for the series, which will air on November 18.

Tsang introduced the series to the public in a mobile studio in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, which housed a makeshift living room with a television set.

The 10 episodes will tell the stories of people from different walks of life trying to repair broken things, memories and relationships.