Dear Subscribers & Friends,
Hong Kong's Secretary for
Security, Regina Ip, resigned this afternoon. Tonight, the Financial Secretary
A. First Cookie to
1. 25 June: According to the press
release put out by the Chief Executive's (CE) office, the SoS resigned 3 weeks
ago on 25 June for "personal reasons". The CE had been persuading her to stay or
take leave but failed to change her mind. He accepted her resignation today
and has informed Beijing.
2. The run up: In the run-up to
25/6, what happened that may have caused the SoS to resign?
reasons" - The SoS was seen taking exams [which students take to
study in the US] a while ago which caused the media to speculate whether she was
leaving the government.
pains - Despite a brief popularity flourish in 2002, the SoS has
been one of the least popular officials. The short-lived
popularity took place at a time when she appeared to be the only official
who spoke her mind even if some of her thoughts were disagreeable or laughable.
Her momentary rise in popularity spoke more about the other ministers than her
estimate - While there have been recent media reports saying
that the government may only have expected 30,000-50,000 protesters on 1
July, the SoS may have felt that the numbers would be much greater since by
then her careless remarks equating the protest as a "social gathering"
was already showing signs to be causing more people to go. On 1 July,
500,000 people turned out to protest against Article 23
questioned The government's strategy has
been to ram the unpopular legislation through LegCo with the help of
pro-government legislators. The SoS may have relied too heavily on this and
never anticipated that things could unravel so badly. Her competence has
therefore been in serious question post-1 July:
(i) From the right: A law
conference about Article 23 national security legislation on 14-15/6 showed up
how much has not been thought through in relation to the government's draft
Bill, especially how the Bill might impact on China's need to pass laws to
establish a procedure for the "proscription mechanism" (see Newsletter 23/6/03).
(ii) From the left: Pro-government
parties had also been complaining about her offensive style, which made life
more difficult for them because it made them unpopular in the eyes of the public
for supporting the legislation.
(iii) From top: Beijing cannot be
happy at how the whole affair has turned out. The SoS is the policy minister
in-charged. Thus, despite the CE's urging her to stay, if she believed that
Beijing was far from happy, it may be easier to go.
B. Second Cookie to
1. ICAC report: The government
confirmed today that it has received the corruption agency's report on the
Financial Secretary, Antony Leung's involvement in "Lexus-gate" where he bought
a car prior to his announcing a vehicle tax hike during the Budget in March
2003. The ICAC investigated whether there was criminal intention to avoid tax
(see Newsletters 11/3 and 19/3).
2. No comment: The Secretary for
Justice (SoJ) was asked today about the report. She did not say the report
contained no evidence of culpability so the guessing game is on. The
guessing would likely be damaging as it will deal another blow to the
credibility of the CE's cabinet. The FS resigned
late in the evening.
The CE decided to refuse the FS's resignation in March
even though he stated that what the FS did was "grossly negligent" and breached
the ministerial code. Now that the FS had to go, whatever the ICAC report said,
it did nothing to instill confidence in the CE's
C. Another crisis for the
expedited: The SoS and
FS departures will force a major cabinet reshuffle sooner rather than
later. Who will serve in the cabinet with the CE at the
Civic Exchange - Hong Kong's independent