The chief executive election may be the talk of the town but it was not so for guests attending an exclusive event with incumbent Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. They were expressly told to remain tight-lipped and not mention the election at a spring reception hosted by Mr Tsang and his wife, Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei, at Government House on Friday. 'This reception is not an election activity,' the invitation card read. 'Attending guests are advised not to engage in, or raise, any election-related affairs.' Although it is customary for a host to inform guests of a dress code, it may be going too far to dictate what is off-limits for gossip in the corridors of power. The 'conversation code' stemmed from fears visitors could inadvertently turn the traditional Lunar New Year celebration into a costly electioneering gathering that Mr Tsang would have had to account for in his campaign expenses. Election expenses are defined as any spending incurred by a candidate or his agents for the purpose of promoting a campaign or prejudicing that of a rival. Like it or not, Mr Tsang risks being accused of abusing public resources should any guest raise the election topic to the extent that it is seen as promoting his candidature. Last month, Mr Tsang bowed to public pressure and promised to account for the cost of using his official limousine to travel between his office in Government House and his campaign office in Wan Chai. Were he to account for the reception in his campaign expenses, which are limited HK$9.5 million, he would have to come up with an ingenious way of calculating the cost. For how could a price tag be placed on hosting such an exclusive function at Government House? Any deliberate spending cover-up is liable to a fine of HK$500,000 and seven years in jail. The Electoral Affairs Commission, however, stops short in its 267-page guideline of giving an exhaustive list of what should be declared, saying whether any particular spending is election-related depends on the circumstances.