DAB's Tsang still silent on communist membership

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 October, 2008, 12:00am

Veteran DAB legislator Tsang Yok-sing yesterday maintained his silence on the question of whether he is a Chinese Communist Party member, saying the city's political culture was not conducive to discussing the issue.

During a Commercial Radio programme yesterday, Mr Tsang, a frontrunner in today's election for Legislative Council president, said, despite several callers urging him to 'admit it', that the political climate was not right.

'In fact, since the foundation of the DAB, I have been asked [whether I am a CCP member] many times,' he said. 'And I can say frankly, I have never answered this question. The reason is, Hong Kong people's attitude to the concept of the Communist Party is very negative.'

Mr Tsang is expected to defeat the Democratic Party's Fred Li Wah-ming in the election for president today due to the Beijing-loyalist majority in the legislature.

Although Mr Tsang has now declared he will not vote, take part in debates nor attend party meetings while Legco president, concerns linger about his deep leftist roots. That prompted League of Social Democrats legislator Leung Kwok-hung to ask the question during Monday's debate between the candidates.

In 1992, the DAB was set up with the blessing of the New China News Agency, then the de facto mainland representative in Hong Kong and later alleged to have been the base for a Chinese Communist Party cell. During that same period, Mr Tsang's younger brother, Tsang Tak-sing, as editor of Ta Kung Pao newspaper, led propaganda attacks against then governor Chris Patten. Tsang Tak-sing is now secretary for home affairs.

Yesterday, Mr Tsang recounted how in the early days of the party, anyone associated with Beijing was labelled a 'Commie thug' and that one was virtually 'guilty of a crime to be close to the central authorities'.

He also denied that because of his bid for Legco's presidency, there was a pressing need for a direct answer.

'This is a question that gets asked at any stage,' he said. 'When I stood for election it became an issue, and when the DAB was founded it was an issue,' adding the most important thing was that he acted openly, transparently and fairly. 'Everyone will see for themselves,' he said.

Lawmakers will vote for the next president after they are sworn in today, but City University political analyst James Sung Lap-kung doubted the controversy would affect lawmakers' decisions, as they were desensitised to Beijing involvement in local politics. 'Everyone in political circles already presumes that Beijing's fingerprints are all over the past few elections,' Dr Sung said. 'Even though Mr Tsang does not answer this question, lawmakers already have an answer in their own minds.'

He also expected Mr Tsang to avoid any perception of bias. 'He's a smart man,' he said.