The Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, is embroiled in a conflict of interest scandal. Evidence has been offered that Tsang accepted flights in private jets, rides in luxury yachts, discounted rent in a showcase apartment and today it’s alleged he spent the night in a high roller suite at a Macau Casino.
The problem with all of these is Tsang failed to pay fair market value. Oops. And he failed to disclose the gifts. Double Oops.
The South China Morning Post today has a front page feature revealing almost 60% of people in Hong Kong do not accept the Chief Executive’s explanations for the gifts. And 73% believe he should be suspended from duties while an investigation is conducted (see full results on-line if you are registered with SCMP.com).
“I believe after this, no one will dare to invite me to their yacht. And no one will invite me to their private jets,” said Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang to legislators, after an investigation was launched this week by the Independent Committee Against Corruption (ICAC). (See full story at The Shanghaiist).
The scandal also involves a luxury apartment across the border in Shenzhen, that appears hard to afford on the modest retirement pension provided to outgoing Chief Executives:
According to Ming Pao Daily News, the 6,500 sq ft unit is at least HK$50 million. The unit takes up the 35th to 37th floors of an upscale building located in the Futian District, near the Hong Kong border (according to Property Guru).
Local real estate agents estimate the rental to be HK$100,000 per month on the open market today.
Finally in today’s Chinese papers there are reports that Tsang and his wife stayed the night at the Palazzo suite in the Macau Venetian Hotel which only accommodates big gamblers.
It’s hard to imagine a political leader in any other country surviving a similar scandal. What if Barack Obama had a penthouse in Trump Towers and only paid a few hundred dollars a month rent? Or if Julia Gillard accepted international flights on the private jet of a mining company? Or if Angela Merkel spent weekends on a luxury yacht provided by a defence contractor? These hypothetical situations show the absurdity of the conflict of interest.
Today Donald Tsang’s reputation is in ruins, yet he continues to serve as we all await the results of an ICAC Inquiry. Until then, perhaps there is time for refreshing reading on Integrity – a free brochure available on the ICAC website.