Q: Starry Lee Wai-king, DAB
If you accept a tycoon's offer to travel on his yacht and/or jet, could you also approve a civil servant's request to do the same? If yes, did you ever get such a request? If no, why did you accept the travel offer for yourself and how can you explain that?
A: The government has clear rules for public servants accepting favours or sponsorships. They need to apply for it and seek permission from their supervisor. As for politically appointed principal officials, they are regulated by the rules formulated in the same spirit. If there is doubt, they need to ask for permission from their supervisor or even the chief executive. The rules have been [in place] all along. Officials do not have to pay for the trip at all if they are allowed to go. Otherwise, they cannot go. But there is a problem for the chief executive, myself. If such an offer had been made to me, I need to consider one principle - whether there will be a conflict of interest. This is why I have set a code for myself. The code was not originally there. When I took office in 2007, I promised to enhance the rules, which include extending the 'Prevention of Bribery Ordinance' to the chief executive for the first time in Hong Kong. In other [situations] which cannot be determined according to the rules, [such as] accepting trips, the chief executive needs to pay for the fare of the same trip on public transport to guarantee that the travelling expense has not been saved by accepting the invitation. The code does not appear in Hong Kong alone. Many overseas advanced countries apply the same principle. All these journeys were done only when my friends gave me 'a lift'. But it is clear that the public thinks it is not appropriate. I admit that for this method, though I think it is correct, the public thinks it is wrong. I must respect the opinion of the public. The public's concerns are the main reason I apologised just now. This incident had made me wiser, taught me to handle such matters more sensitively. Furthermore, this is not the end of it. You all know I have appointed a former chief judge to set up the 'Independent Review Committee for the Prevention and Handling of Potential Conflicts of Interests', which will review the mechanism as a whole and come up with recommendations.
Q: Starry Lee Wai-king
There are some who say that you demand a higher standard from others than you do from yourself. Do you agree?
A: I have already explained. When civil servants accept offers, they need to apply for it. But as a chief executive, I need to handle my own application, unless I do not do it at all. If I allow myself to do it, it would be under the circumstances of having no conflicts of interest at all. How do I handle it? I think I should not be keen on gaining petty advantages. The travel cost cannot be avoided, and it needs to be paid. For short journeys, I pay [the price] of an economy-class ticket. For long journeys, I pay [the price] of a business-class ticket. This is the rules, and of course it is applicable only to the chief executive.
Q: Alan Leong Kah-kit, Civil Party
Is there any document to show the code [of conduct] you have been obeying? When did you actually implement such a code to yourself? Is there any record? Did you discuss it with the Executive Council? What kind of code is it? When did it appear?
A: I have already explained. This so-called code is applicable only to the chief executive alone. It appeared since the start of this administration, in accordance with my election campaign promise. I have been sticking to the rules for several years. Yes, this rule lacks transparency. It is an internal code. I have copied overseas governments in doing so. I know now it is under doubt. I hope a review could be done and implemented during my term.
Q: Alan Leong Kah-kit
I don't understand the logic behind the reimbursement scheme. How could a civil-service couple pay only HK$500 to ride on a yacht trip?
A: This is a solution where there are none for the chief executive. I hope there could be improvements after the review, which could allow the chief executive to keep in contact with different people, including the grass roots, the middle class, and businessmen.
Q: Philip Wong Yu-hong
Tycoon Cheung Chung-kiu who offered you a lift to Phuket on his private jet is also my friend. He is also the main shareholder in the Western Harbour Tunnel and Tate's Cairn Tunnel. During the period when the tunnel operators were arguing for a price rise, did you declare your interest? How can the public believe that there was no conflict of interests?
A: There was transparent legislation to handle a toll adjustment for the Western Harbour Tunnel. The ordinance also states the level of price adjustment and the prices. [The operators] do not need to seek permission from the government or the Executive Council. There is no reason for a conflict of interests.
Q: Philip Wong Yu-hong
When [the tunnel operator] was planning for a price adjustment, did you declare your interest, as you are a friend of Cheung's?
A: The price adjustment scheme does not require the government's permission. And according to the rules of the Executive Council, as long as there is no conflict of interests with a friend, there is no need to declare.
Q: Priscilla Leung Mei-fun
Please state clearly when did you know Bill Wong Cho-bau, the tycoon who leased you the penthouse? What was your relationship with him when he was applying for a broadcasting licence for the Digital Broadcasting Company? When he leased you the penthouse, did you realise he is the main shareholder of DBC, and did you complete all documentation for the lease?
A: I have known Wong since seven or eight years ago from social activities. I see him two or three times a year, not too many. The DBC issue did not involve private matters. The licensing went through a very serious process before its submission to the Executive Council. It has been through a transparent and competitive process, and had been reviewed professionally. You are not required to declare who your friends are to the Executive Council. I really did not make a link between the Shenzhen penthouse and the DBC. So I did not declare [my relationship with Wong].
Q: Albert Chan Wai-yip, People Power
The benefits you accepted are much greater than those accepted by civil servants who have been convicted for corruption. Will you bow and say sorry to them? Should you be stepping down from your office and stop being shameless?
A: I have said words from the bottom of my heart. I understand the public's opinion, and the anger felt by the Legco member. But what makes my heart ache most is that this matter has affected how civil servants question my own principles and moral standards. But at the same time I receive a lot of encouragement from them. They understand that I could be blindsided by my feeling that I understand something. And public opinion could be changing. I may not know what I have done and may have fallen short of the public's expectation. I am really sorry.Topics: Human Interest Political Corruption Conflict of Interest Chief Executive Executive Council Chief Executive Chief Executive Chief Executive Chief Executive