Supporters say fighting Sars matters more, but critics insist he lacks integrity Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung told legislators the scandal over his luxury car purchase was the biggest test of his life. Having heard his words, a majority decided he had passed the test and gave him a vote of confidence. Mr Leung said he would not allow the controversy to interfere with his work and pledged to do his best to revive the economy in the aftermath of the Sars outbreak, as well as solving the problem of the fiscal deficit. But some lawmakers and academics said the damage to Mr Leung, the government, and Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's so-called accountability system had already been done. The controversy concerned Mr Leung's purchase of a luxury Lexus 430 shortly before he introduced hefty increases in first registration tax for vehicles in his budget on March 5. Mr Leung failed on successive occasions to declare his purchase of the Lexus car to the Executive Council. He described this as an oversight and promised to donate the difference between the old and new tax rates to charity. 'I deeply understand that trust and support need time and results in order to be built up. I will more prudently and pragmatically serve the public and I hope I will receive support from legislators and the people,' said Mr Leung during the no-confidence debate. Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said the debate had added nothing to the details of the scandal already made public. Calling for Mr Leung's resignation would not help Hong Kong recover from the economic downturn caused by the Sars outbreak, he said. He said Mr Leung had learned from his mistakes and his fault was only a lapse of judgment. 'This breach [of the ministerial code] was negligence rather than a calculated deceit. It is, if anything, a sin of omission rather than a sin of commission,' Mr Tsang said. Mr Leung was the first minister to face a no-confidence motion since the launch of the 'accountability system' last July. The motion was voted down, with opposition from the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, the Liberal Party, the Progressive Alliance and other non-affiliated lawmakers. Moving the motion, legal sector representative Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said Mr Leung should resign as financial secretary because his integrity was in serious doubt, and this would both affect the credibility of the government and of Hong Kong. 'Once the public have lost confidence in the integrity or ability of a senior public official, everything he does in the future will be subjected to suspicion. He can only do a disservice by remaining,' she said. 'Whatever his motive, as a matter of fact he benefited from insider information. This is in itself grave misconduct. Even saints can do wrong, but they don't deserve our respect if they have done wrong and refuse to shoulder the responsibility,' she said. Other members of the pro-democracy camp severely criticised Mr Leung for his lack of integrity over the incident. But the pro-government legislators, although agreeing that Mr Leung had committed a gross oversight, said he had already kept his honour by offering to resign - an offer rejected by the chief executive - and his going now would affect the fight against the Sars outbreak. Democrat Cheung Man-kwong said Mr Tung should fire Mr Leung, just as two senior mainland officials were sacked after mishandling the Sars outbreak in Beijing. 'Even Beijing officials can be fired, and we don't see how that would affect the fight against the virus.' But Ip Kwok-him, of the DAB, said a poll by his party found a majority of the public did not want Mr Leung to resign. 'He has not avoided tax and we believe his integrity has no problems.' Howard Young, of the Liberal Party, said Mr Leung should be condemned for his negligence but resignation would be too serious a punishment. Academics Li Pang-kwong, of Lingnan University, and Ivan Choy Chi-keung, of City University, both said that although the motion was not passed, damage to the credibility of Mr Leung and the government had been done. The government faces another test next week when Legco will debate and vote on a motion calling for Mr Tung's resignation. Mr Leung is the fourth senior official to have faced a motion of no-confidence in the legislature. In 2000, Rosanna Wong Yick-ming, former chairwoman of the Housing Authority, resigned on the eve of Legco passing such a motion to blame her for the scandal over short pilings. Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie and former governor Chris Patten both survived no-confidence motions.