Thursday, 1 March 2012

Apologies Are Not Enough

Today Chief Executive Donald Tsang promised to cooperate with the Independent Commission Against Corruption's investigation into his extracurricular activities to find out if the allegations of having too close ties with tycoons and taking advantage of their private jets and yachts are verified.

"I have nothing to hide," he said in an emotional speech to lawmakers in the Legislative Council chambers. "I promise everyone... I will cooperate fully."

As he spoke lawmakers interrupted his speech shouting, "Donald Tsang step down!" and others holding placards saying "Corrupt bow-tie step down".

The legislative councilors are a tough audience, but really they are only reflecting the public's anger and also upholding the law.

According to media reports Tsang appeared to hold back tears as he apologized for any misunderstanding over the "incidents".

"The series of incidents have caused concerns from the public, media, lawmakers and civil servants, and shaken public confidence in the government. I hereby solemnly apologize to the public," he said. "Regardless of whether you still trust me, please do not lose faith in the Hong Kong system."

He got into some seriously hot water a few weeks ago after he was photographed on a tycoon's yacht in Macau and even though Tsang claimed he had paid the market rate for transportation, a tycoon asked the media what was wrong with giving a friend a lift?

Not good.

And then Tsang was accused of taking advantage of cheap rent for a penthouse flat in Shenzhen after his retirement that included a giant pond for his collection of koi fish. However, after discussions with his wife, Tsang will not rent the flat after all.

At least he got that right.

Tsang has refused to name the tycoons he has allegedly had cozy relationships with, and even though some have been named by the media, he refuses to confirm their identities.

So far the chief executive had admitted to accepting four excursions on private jets operated by his tycoon friends and at least a yacht trip to Macau and a private jet trip to Japan.

What is hard to understand is that Tsang is such a dedicated church goer and a good Catholic boy, so why how did he end up not being more transparent about these things?

"Some residents now think the chief executive is corrupt," Tsang said. "I have always abided by the rules but I admit there is a gap between public expectation and the handling of this issue, which has led to public disappointment and questions about my integrity.

"I am here not to restore people's confidence towards me, but to restore public confidence towards the government's system."

Even though Tsang is stepping down in less than five months, for his sake he probably should think about trying to win back public trust too.

After all, does he want this to be his last legacy for Hong Kong?

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