A businessman turned politician who has served in the legislature and two cabinets, Henry Tang Ying-yen has hardly hidden his aspiration to become Hong Kong leader. His road to high office has not been without bumps, though, the most notable being his admission this year that he had 'strayed' in his love life, plus an array of foot-in-mouth comments that have aroused public dissatisfaction, if not anger, in recent years. As a result, Tang has seen his popularity in public polls slump. Now 59, the man with the trademark smile has moved smoothly through the political ranks. He was a lawmaker from 1991 to 1998 when he was a member of the Liberal Party. He joined the Executive Council in 1997, then was appointed by Tung Chee-hwa in 2002 as secretary for commerce, industry and technology (equivalent to the current secretary for commerce and economic development). A year later, he became financial secretary, the third most important post in the city, before being promoted to chief secretary in 2007 by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. He resigned from the post two months ago. His father, Shanghainese textile tycoon Tang Hsiang-chien, was reportedly close to former president Jiang Zemin . Last week, a few financial heavyweights lined up to offer their support for the younger Tang, including HSBC Asia-Pacific's chief executive, Peter Wong Tung-shun, former Monetary Authority chief Joseph Yam Chi-kwong and Bank of East Asia's chairman, David Li Kwok-po. Yam called his former government colleague 'the helmsman Hong Kong needs' and 'a leader who can preserve and strive for the public's benefits'. Analysts said Tang's popularity was especially low after he admitted his marital infidelity. Last month, Tang held the hand of his wife Kwok Yu-chin and said in front of television cameras that he had been forgiven by his family. It confirmed rumours that had been circulating in the media for months. He later declined to comment on rumours that he had fathered a child out of wedlock. His quasi-electioneering in the past couple of months has also attracted much public attention, mostly negative. When attending a forum with teachers, he called the June 4 Tiananmen crackdown in 1989 an 'individual incident' and said Hong Kong must look at China's overall achievements. He asked the headmaster of a primary school he was visiting about its university-entrance rate. And when asked about his often controversial remarks and apparently weaker logic than Leung, he gave a vague answer, attributing them to his 'speedy pace of speaking' and to his 'familiarity with government policies'. A photograph showing him lying on the wooden bed of a poor family he was visiting, displaying little emotion, led to doctored website images of him lying in a coffin. He changed his public relations team not long after, and it now consists of seasoned journalists led by PR veteran Jenny Fung Ma Kit-han. It remains to be seen if his new team can save him from his outspokenness. In August, he described as 'completely rubbish' suggestions that the government 'violated civil rights' during a visit to Hong Kong by Vice-Premier Li Keqiang. 'Nor have we violated freedom of speech,' he added. This led to sharp rebukes from media organisations and lawmakers. In May, he dismissed in an interview with the Post what many claimed was 'land hegemony' in Hong Kong, telling youngsters to ask themselves: 'Why can't I become the next Li Ka-shing?' In January, he warned that the radical behaviour of young activists would end up like a 'fatal car crash', drawing scorn from young people. As chairman of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority in 2008, the wine lover said a vineyard could be planted in the multibillion-dollar arts hub. 'How many people in Hong Kong have seen wine grapes?' he said. 'I'm not talking about the grapes you buy at supermarkets.' Tang said yesterday he was capable of forming a social consensus.