War of words flares over 'Leung bankruptcy' report

Updated: 2011-12-09 07:58

By Andrea Deng (HK Edition)

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Sing Tao boss questions competence of CE candidate to govern Hong Kong

The head of Sing Tao News Corporation bluntly challenged Chief Executive hopeful Leung Chun-ying on Thursday, questioning his ability to handle the top job in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Leung said on Thursday: "Justice lies in everyone's mind," adding that he respects freedom of the press.

The news organization's Chairman Charles Ho Tsu-kwok made the comment while responding to Leung's earlier censure of the newspaper, for what the candidate characterized as a "smear campaign" against him.

Leung complained on Tuesday that he had been constantly and intentionally assailed by negative media coverage for the past two months.

At the time, he lashed out at Sing Tao News Corporation without naming it, noting that a report of the bankruptcy of his company "seriously departed from the facts".

Ho said at Thursday's conference that running a company opens a window on the owner's capability to make investment judgments and management decisions, including handling crises.

Ho went on to comment on Sing Tao's reportage earlier this week, when the newspaper reported that Leung's company had "emptied its pocket".

"If the value of his company's shares had decreased to zero, (I wonder) if Hong Kong's economy would become zero because of (Leung's) wrong decisions," he said.

"Are you competent to govern Hong Kong?" Ho addressed the question directly to Leung.

Leung on Tuesday denied claims that he had been left with nothing. He said he still retains some shares in the Asian Pacific subsidiary of his previously listed company DTZ Holdings.

He added the subsidiary has been performing well, and gained a profit margin of HK$100 million in 2010. But he declined to elaborate his remarks, saying it was a confidential matter.

In the face of Leung's rebuke, Ho said there was nothing wrong with Sing Tao's reporting, and that the accusation against Sing Tao was "unfair".

"How is it possible that a parent company has gone bankrupt, and he still gets shares from the subsidiary?" he asked, demanding that Leung offer a clearer explanation to the public.

As a local deputy to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Ho holds the right to vote in the election that will choose the next Chief Executive.

Ho denied widespread speculation that he and Sing Tao News Corporation have taken a stand in favor of Leung's rival, Henry Tang.

Ho was reticent to say which candidate of the two he intends to vote for, saying that he is still waiting to see their declared political platforms.

Ho rejected a suggestion that his organization reports only negative news on Leung and positive news on Tang. He explained that editorial staff had been unable to find sufficient information thus far on Tang's weakness, and thus has not reported on any.

Ho reiterated that he had known Leung for nine years, and had dined with him much more often than he had dined with Tang.

Leung, who was a non-executive director of Sing Tao News Corp, had said he would consider resigning from the organization.

Ho is an entrepreneur who inherited huge family business. He has been chairman of the Hong Kong Tobacco Company since the 1990s.

andrea@chinadailyhk.com

China Daily

(HK Edition 12/09/2011 page1)