The English word ‘tang’ comes from the same root as ‘tongue’ – hence its meaning of a hint of strong flavour. Which is what Hong Kong’s quasi-election campaign now has, thanks to outgoing Chief Secretary Henry Tang’s admission that had ‘strayed in his love life’. (Is it just me or does his forgiving wife Lisa look astoundingly like Henry’s rival CY Leung?)
Like Lisa, China’s official press are adopting a supportive let-bygones-be-bygones line to help the textbook PR tactics nip the problem in the bud. However, there are still enough unanswered questions hanging around for mischievous people to keep the story alive. The rumours that Henry had been having a fling with an Administrative Officer assistant go back a while. As if to confirm suspicions that the nexus of bureaucratic and business (self-styled) elites that cluster around Chief Executive Donald Tsang and monopolize Hong Kong’s power structure are too incestuous for comfort, the finger pointed at Shirley Yuen, who has since become CEO of the HK General Chamber of Commerce without much of an open-recruitment exercise. But she is denying it with the rigid defiance that only Hong Kong civil servants and four-year-olds near cookie jars can muster. Furthermore, it is still not clear whether Henry had only one or several extramarital affairs.
While this won’t make the slightest difference to the Chinese government’s pretty obvious intention to appoint him Chief Executive next year, it won’t do much for Henry’s opinion poll ratings. Thanks to a long tradition of concubinage among rich Chinese men, tycoons like Henry even can attract a certain admiration for extramarital dalliances, but you’re supposed to do it with a movie starlet. Dabbling with a junior colleague is a no-no in any organization for its morale- and management-wrecking potential. As for bedding a civil servant, what can we say except ‘Eeewww’? (And as for two of them…)
A pat on the head, by the way, to the Wall Street Journal’s Chester Yung, who declares that the race isn’t a real election in its true democratic sense. An example for the whole international press to follow.