Former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-shing has said that his sudden withdrawal a forum with former governor Chris Patten this week was because of attacks made behind his back. Tsang is tipped to be a contender in the upcoming Chief Executive election.

The forum on Saturday, hosted by the Project Citizens Foundation, will be attended by Patten, business magnate Simon Murray, University of Hong Kong Vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson and former lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee. Eu replaced Tsang.

In a column article entitled “It cannot be tolerated,” Tsang wrote that – recently – his friends have asked to be careful of his actions and “mind your back.” He said that many of those who knew him personally have been sharing and commenting on articles criticising him. One of the most widely shared criticisms alleged that he asked Chris Patten to write the foreword for his autobiography.

Jasper Tsang Chris Patten
Jasper Tsang and Chris Patten. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Cloud.

But Tsang said he did not write an autobiography. He said Oxford University Press last year invited him to write a book about learning English. Owing to time constraints, the publisher arranged for an editorial group to interview him on the topic instead.

Tsang said that it was not his idea to invite Patten to write the foreword. Patten wrote the foreword for his book as he was invited to do so by the publisher, since he is also the chancellor of Oxford University.

“I looked at the content of that foreword, it was a very measured one – not a single word of disrespect towards China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,” he wrote, adding that he originally did not care about attacks.

“But later someone told me, ‘you asked the ‘sinner for a thousand years’ to write the foreword for your autobiography – someone has made a complaint to Beijing’ – only then did I realise it was not a small mistake,” he wrote.

Jasper Tsang Chris Patten
The original promotion banner of the forum with Jasper Tsang and Chris Patten. Photo: Project Citizens Foundation.

Patten was labelled a “sinner for a thousand years” by Lu Ping, the mainland official formerly in charge of Hong Kong affairs, when he introduced political reform in 1992 to make the Legislative Council more democratic.

“After all these ‘friends of justice’ felt regretful, grieved, angered by this sin committed by me, they then saw that I am about to commit another sin that is more severe: attending a forum with Chris Patten, to discuss ‘are the pillars crumbling’ in Hong Kong today! This is unforgivable, if this can be tolerated, what cannot be?” he wrote.

“When I agreed to attend the forum several months ago, I did not know who will be speaking, I did not think that attending a forum would be a grave sin. I cannot stand that the ‘friends of justice’ feel regretful, grieved, angered again, therefore I have to bite the bullet and tell the organiser that I cannot stick to my promise to attend the forum,” he concluded.

Tsang has yet to officially announce whether he will run for the Chief Executive position. He said in September that he does not want become chief executive as it is “not a good position to be in,” although he previously said he may consider running should no other suitable candidate come forward.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.