My Take

Things could have been worse with Henry Tang

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 October, 2015, 1:11am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 October, 2015, 1:11am

For many who rue the day the black horse candidate Leung Chun-ying defeated his favoured rival Henry Tang Ying-yen to become chief executive, they only need to read the latter's statement yesterday to be reminded it could have been much worse in the past three years under Tang.

A former chief secretary, Tang came to the defence of embattled tycoon Li Ka-shing, who recently came under fierce attack from state-controlled media on the mainland.

"The allegation about his withdrawal from the mainland market is neither true nor fair to Mr Li," he wrote on his Tencent weibo social media account.

"The reorganisation of [Li's companies] was in accordance with market-oriented practices and conformed to the development and arrangements on the mainland."

I make no comments on Li's restructuring of his companies and re-domiciling of his flagship Cheung Kong Holdings from Hong Kong to the Cayman Islands. Nor do I know whether he has been withdrawing businesses from the mainland. State media have criticised him for doing it, but in a long defensive statement, Li claims his companies are actually expanding on the mainland.

What I find interesting is the cosy relationship between Li and Tang. Each goes out publicly to embrace the other in a moment of need and desperation. You might remember that on the day Tang lost the chief executive race, Li deliberately walked over to console him before a legion of press photographers.

Li and many property tycoons were probably as disappointed as Tang by the 2012 election upset, if not more so.

If Tang had won, it would have been more than likely that the high land-premium policy pursued by former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen would continue. Even if Tang were forced to slow down the property market, he would not have come close to introducing the tough measures that Leung has launched. Tang would have been another Donald Tsang, with his anti-poor, anti-welfare ideology. The pan-democratic narrative that the government colludes with big businesses controlled by the tycoons would probably have applied much more so if Tang had been chief executive.