SCMP Friday, February 16, 2001
Tsang's pledge on freedom
The man named yesterday as the next head of the civil service, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, vowed that he would not compromise on freedom.
And banker Antony Leung Kam-chung, named to follow Mr Tsang as financial secretary, promised to continue prudent management of the territory's finances.
Tung Chee-hwa yesterday ended the waiting over the top appointments by announcing the biggest government reshuffle since the handover.
The Chief Executive named Mr Tsang, 56, to replace Anson Chan Fang On-sang as Chief Secretary for Administration when she retires in April. Mrs Chan has said she is retiring for personal reasons and to make way for new blood. But she also said some people had tried to sow discord between her and Mr Tung.
The appointment of Mr Leung, 49, an Executive Councillor and Asia-Pacific chairman of JP Morgan Chase - the first non-civil servant financial secretary since Sir John Bremridge in the 1980s - has sparked concerns among civil servants and lawmakers of a possible conflict of interest and concerns he may have problems getting along with the civil service.
Mr Tsang said yesterday: "I am conscious that Mrs Anson Chan is a hard act to follow . . . what Anson has done will continue to inspire me and my colleagues to work doubly hard and do our very best in serving Hong Kong. On the question of freedom, human rights and rule of law, I don't think I have to compromise. Nor do I think Mr Tung would want me to compromise."
Asked about the alleged disputes between Mr Tung and Mrs Chan, Mr Tsang said: "We are not actually genetic clones of each other that we all think in identical ways. We are different personalities. This is the strength of the system. So Anson is different from C. H. [Tung], and Donald is different from Anson. But we share one common goal, and that is to serve the people of Hong Kong to the best of our ability and using our own value system, ie. the rule of law and freedom."
He dismissed claims that Beijing had no confidence in him. "I was told by the Chief Executive I was appointed by Beijing, so I think that is clear evidence enough that I have the trust of the central Government in discharging this highest office in the civil service. I will reciprocate that trust with my own sense of duty."
While he would first focus on the Budget due to be delivered on March 7, Mr Tsang said he would make Beijing feel confident that Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong and the "one country two systems" were being implemented successfully.
Mr Tsang will be the only career civil servant remaining in the three top government posts following Mr Leung's appointment. Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie was also drafted in from the private sector before the handover.
As head of the civil service, Mr Tsang's monthly salary will rise from $204,800 to $216,650. Mr Leung will have to give up an estimated $15 million a year for $2.45 million in his new job.
Mr Leung said he would attach great importance to continuing prudent management of public finances. He named the transition to a knowledge-based economy and the impending accession of China to the World Trade Organisation as some of his challenges.
The banker pledged to improve the economy for everyone. "My aim is to provide economic opportunities for the many, not just the few," he said. He denied his business affiliations would trigger a conflict of interest.
He also brushed aside suggestions co-operation would be a problem, saying he was familiar with lawmakers and senior positions through the Education Commission, which he has chaired since 1998, and numerous advisory posts in the Government.
Mr Tsang, who said he would show Mr Leung his Budget before delivery, pledged close co-operation with his successor while Mr Leung said that he would build on the foundation laid by Mr Tsang and make the SAR a global economy.
Mr Tung, who said Beijing had instantly accepted his recommendations, denied the line-up was tailor-made for his bid for a second term.
He said Mr Leung would become a "pillar of strength" in his administration, while praising Mr Tsang for his determination and wisdom in reviving the economy.
Mr Tung would not be drawn on whether Mr Leung was his first choice after former financial services secretary and current Mandatory Provident Fund Authority managing director Rafael Hui Si-yan reportedly refused the offer.
- A Xinhua dispatch, released just half an hour before Mr Tung was due to make his announcement, said the appointments of Mr Tsang and Mr Leung as well as the "removal" of Mrs Chan by Beijing had been confirmed last Friday.