Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen told journalists at an awards ceremony yesterday that negative reports of his links with tycoons had spurred him to improve himself.
Tsang spoke as he officiated at the presentation of the Hong Kong News Award 2011, in which the South China Morning Post claimed six prizes.
The revelation in February that Tsang had accepted luxury travel on yachts and a private jet ride from tycoons, whom he reimbursed with the cost of an economy-class ticket, and a bargain deal to rent a luxury penthouse in Shenzhen, since abandoned, led to claims of a conflict of interest and a first-ever motion to impeach a chief executive, due to be discussed by the Legislative Council next month.
Tsang said any political figure would find such criticism hard to deal with, but he had reflected deeply on the incident and it had reminded him of the public's high expectations of politicians. While the media's questions had been embarrassing and he had struggled to control his emotions at times, he appreciated reporters were only doing their duty.
'On many occasions, friends from the media saw me scowling. On the one hand, I felt miserable. On the other hand, if you used other means to ask questions, maybe I could speak my mind more freely in answering your questions.'
He made a joke of his troubles when the hosts handed him souvenirs of the event, saying that he would be accepting benefits again.
The Post received six prizes in the awards. Senior news reporter Cheung Chi-fai's 'Secret Land Deals' was the second runner-up in the best scoop category, while senior business reporter Denise Tsang won the first runner-up prize for best business writing in English for her article 'Getting Rich on Low Pay'.
Cheung highlighted land-use abuse by Wong Chuk Yeung villagers in Sai Kung, who sold their 'rights' to build small houses to developers.
Tsang travelled to Cambodia and Thailand to see how companies are faring after moving operations from Guangdong to lower their costs. She interviewed Hong Kong manufacturers, labourers, labour unions and trade associations about the growing trend of relocating labour-intensive manufacturing from the Pearl River Delta into emerging markets as a result of soaring wages.
The collective efforts of the editorial department won second runner-up honours in the news reporting category for their coverage of the Fa Yuen Street blaze, the city's deadliest in 15 years, last November.
The top prize in the features photography category went to Sam Tsang's 'Cloud Cover'.
The top honour in sports photography went to K.Y. Cheng's 'Brothers in Arms', which captured Frederico Oliveira of Portugal being tackled by New Zealand's Declan O'Donnell at last year's Hong Kong Sevens. Felix Wong was given a merit in the same section for 'Rough and Tumble', taken at the Hong Kong rugby championship grand final.
The awards, organised by the Newspaper Society, attracted a record 523 entries. Sixty-five prizes were awarded to 15 newspapers.