The Financial Secretary told yesterday how he once wept in the middle of the night before deciding, in August 1998, to fend off foreign speculators by intervening in the stock market. 'I cried two or three times because I didn't want to lose taxpayers' money and because it was against my fiscal philosophy,' Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said. 'When I asked Mr Tung [Chee-hwa] on this, he agreed to it in half an hour. I needed his support although the final decision rested with me. 'I had only very few choices. Either you do nothing or you let the Hang Seng Index fall to 4,000 and continue to plummet further. The interest rate will surge to 50 per cent.' Mr Tsang, who takes over from outgoing Chief Secretary for Administration Anson Chan Fang On-sang next month, was recalling his experiences at a media gathering held at his official residence in Shouson Hill Road yesterday. He said he had been in Istanbul before making the decision to intervene. Former secretary for financial services Rafael Hui Si-yan phoned him and said the Government had to take some action as the value of the stock market had rapidly dropped US$8 billion (HK$62 billion). Mr Tsang said his choices were to impose more restrictions on foreign exchange, end the dollar peg, or intervene in the stock market, and he opted for the latter. Mr Tsang ploughed $118 billion into the market in 11 days. He expected he would have to fight off the speculators for one month, but added: 'I did not expect the speculators to lose after only one round.' He said he had been prepared to resign - along with Mr Hui and Monetary Authority Chief Executive Joseph Yam Chi-kwong - if they had failed. In deciding when to stop intervening, Mr Tsang said both he and Mr Yam were superstitious. They decided to stop when the Hang Seng Index reached 7,800 as the Hong Kong dollar was pegged to the US dollar at 7.8. Although some attacked Mr Tsang for intervening, he said he won appreciation from many quarters including European countries and the United States. 'But I really think we should not judge the performance of one official by one incident only,' he said. Mr Tsang said he had spent time on holiday this month in Shanghai, Yangzhou and Nanjing. He conceded that Shanghai was developing fast but did not agree that, as forecast by the Trade Development Council, it would catch up with Hong Kong in terms of GDP per capita within 15 years. He said that while Hong Kong people were more creative than their Shanghai counterparts, the SAR needed to attract mainland talent in the information technology and financial sectors.