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劉廼強 | 20th Oct 2009 | SCMP | (16 Reads)

Last Saturday one of the more popular local Chinese newspapers ran Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen as its lead story for the second day running, comparing him to Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan's disgraced former president who was convicted of corruption involving millions of dollars. The day before, at least four other Chinese newspapers ran similar stories.

While I am no staunch supporter of Tsang, and don't think much of his latest policy address, I and any objective observer would agree that promoting energy-saving lighting is a step in the right direction.

The charge of conflict of interest is far-fetched, while the one of corruption is preposterous.

In Tsang's case, the allegation of conflict of interest arises because his son's father-in-law owns a controlling interest in a company that represents Philips, a major supplier of energy-saving bulbs in Hong Kong.

The energy-efficient lighting market in Hong Kong is highly competitive with no firm claiming a monopoly position. So we can discard any possibility of preference and collusion in this area, and there is plainly no conflict of interest.

In imperial China, the emperor would punish his officials by executing relatives nine steps removed. Thankfully, in the 21st century, we cannot expect one's interest to extend to in-laws, and as such, that it has to be declared.

Tsang was completely correct not to take his son's in-laws into account, and there was nothing improper about his not mentioning them.

The matter has nothing to do with political sensitivity, as some pundits insist. There has to be a reasonable point at which such disclosure is unnecessary.

I don't know how long this fiasco will go on, but like many of my fellow citizens, I find the noise annoying as it greatly distracts our attention, and that of government officials, from the more serious contents of the policy address and other important matters of the day.

It is highly unfair to Tsang, his immediate family and relatives who are themselves not public figures. It is unnecessarily cruel to put these innocent people in the limelight under such intense scrutiny.

It is also unfair to the Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah, who must now shoulder the responsibility for the alleged political insensitivity for proposing the measure in the first place.

This time Tsang has done exactly the right thing, and citizens should support him in this case. We have the responsibility to set the record straight for future officials and politicians to follow.

The moral of the story is, first of all, dissidents are dissidents, and that is all we can expect from these people. It is up to the rest of us to use our heads to decide what is right or wrong and to put our foot down when necessary.

The dissidents are running out of issues, and are desperate to the point of grasping any false issue that comes along. They are bound to be an even greater nuisance; it is up to us to put an immediate stop to it the moment it emerges.