Winnie Tang Shuk-ming, the businesswoman at the centre of controversy over a government internet programme, broke her silence yesterday, saying all accusations against her were smear attempts - without saying who was behind them.
The president of the Internet Professional Association (iProA) also refused to disclose whether she was involved in helping Chief Secretary for Administration Henry Tang Ying-yen prepare his campaign website for the chief executive election.
'I do feel sad because Hong Kong society has become so much more politicised now even against welfare projects that benefit the public,' Winnie Tang said yesterday.
She was speaking at a news conference to announce details of the tender her association has won to co-host an internet learning programme with the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, through its affiliate, eInclusion.
The details were announced as the latest attempt by pan-democrats to launch a formal inquiry into the tendering process was defeated.
The democrats have been seeking to investigate whether senior government officials including the financial secretary had exerted political pressure on civil servants responsible for selecting the learning programme's implementers.
A motion tabled by Democratic Party vice-chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing seeking to invoke the Legislative Council's special powers to probe the incident was voted down 21-28 at a full council meeting.
Winnie Tang said Henry Tang had nothing to do with iProA's involvement in the internet programme and her organisation had never been involved in his website.
'I have never, never talked with Tang about the learning programme,' she said, and any such suggestions were just attempts to smear her reputation.
But she shrugged off questions as to whether she was personally assisting Henry Tang's bid to become the next chief executive. Lau says she has submitted further questions about the case which she hopes will be pursued after the Legco recess.
eInclusion won a contract to help run a HK$220 million internet learning project, which helps underprivileged children go online, along with WebOrganic, a group linked to the Council of Social Service.
Former government chief information officer Jeremy Godfrey claims iProA won its share of the job because of an order issued at the top of the government - an accusation vehemently dismissed by officials.
As a businesswoman and politician with no declared political affiliation, Winnie Tang is the chief executive officer of a company which has been appointed for a wide range of government IT projects, including the development of the discussion forum on the chief executive's official campaign website.