My Take

WhatsApp revelations compromise Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 June, 2015, 1:45am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 June, 2015, 9:05am

The disarray within the pro-establishment camp is worse than most people thought. After a week of mutual recriminations, someone privy to the communication between the camp's legislators decided to leak their WhatsApp messages about the electoral reform vote last week.

The sensational revelation is that Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing was "whatsapping" with pro-establishment lawmakers both before and after last week's bungled walkout, which led to their low turnout during the decisive vote.

For all their pro-Beijing protestations, those lawmakers have not learned the much-touted united front. Instead, one or some of them are learning the Western-style dark art of leaking to the press. How ironic!

There are now calls for Tsang to resign. In his own defence, Tsang claimed he violated no rules or procedures of Legco: he did not help organise or encourage the walkout. That may be so, but he did offer opinions on the timing for debate and the vote.

The fact that he was messaging with key pro-establishment players while Legco was in session during the pivotal debate and voting on electoral reform raises serious questions about his impartiality.

The incident has already undermined his credibility as Legco president.

Like it or not, Hong Kong laws require the chief executive to have no affiliation with political parties and that the Legco president must be politically neutral.

This is, of course, a parliamentary anomaly. Tsang's role is somehow equivalent to the speaker of the house, who in the West is usually a senior member of the dominant party.

The constitutional development of Hong Kong over decades deliberately negates the possibility of any political party law. This is now generally recognised as a serious defect in our political development. As co-founder of the Beijing-friendly Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Tsang would have been its house speaker if Legco were a normal parliament.

But rules are rules and the Legco president is required to be neutral - and seen to be neutral.

Clearly he has failed that test in this incident. Barring further revelations, his failing this time is probably not serious enough to force him to resign. But the trust he has earned among lawmakers and the public has been seriously compromised.