Carrie Lam asks ex-finance chief John Tsang to respect system for former officials amid employment dispute

Hong Kong’s leader says arrangement for declaration of employment does not carry any penalties, but has worked well for 10 years

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 12:37pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 10:29pm

Hong Kong’s leader has said she hoped former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah would respect an arrangement for former officials who had left the government for other professions or employment, even though the system did not carry any penalties.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor commented on Tuesday on a dispute between Tsang and the authorities which erupted over the weekend. The failed chief executive candidate had accused public broadcaster RTHK of suspending promotion of a television series hosted by him because he had not notified a government advisory committee about the filming.

The city’s former finance chief insisted that such a declaration was unnecessary as he was neither paid nor employed by the organisations involved.

Lam, speaking before her weekly meeting with her cabinet on Tuesday morning, said there was no political motivation behind the post-office declaration system.

The system struck a balance between the public’s power to monitor former politically appointed officials and the rights of these same officials, she said, adding that it had operated without problems for more than 10 years.

“If you go to the website and look into the dozen cases we’ve handled, there are many similar cases … no matter if they involved paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time jobs, including [former officials] being part-time adjunct professors at universities and hosting radio programmes,” Lam said.

“Even for the unpaid jobs, the relevant colleagues also came forward to the committee and asked for advice.”

Lam dismissed talk from lawmakers and other critics that there were ambiguities in the existing declaration guidelines. The phrase “any employment” was intended to include different situations as much as possible, and it was up to the officials to declare [their employment] in the end, she said.

Lam said the committee would give fair advice and remind the former officials not to leak any confidential information or provoke any conflict of interest.

Hong Kong’s chief secretary says John Tsang probe ‘purely procedural’

“I hope Mr Tsang Chun-wah would, like other officials, respect the system after stepping down, and no cause doubts among the public,” she said.

Lam said there was no penalty in place, and the only binding power behind the arrangement was the respect for the system shown by former politically appointed officials.

The Post has reached out to Tsang for comment.

According to a guidance note, politically appointed officials are not allowed to “commence any employment, become a director or a partner in any business or profession or start any business or profession on his or her own account or with others” that would likely constitute a conflict of interest with their previous role in the first year after they step down.

The guidance does not clearly state whether anyone taking up non-profit work has to file a request with the advisory committee.

RTHK has dismissed the claims, saying it was just too early to start promoting the series which will run in November.