Former financial secretary John Tsang says he had been communicating with the government over whether to declare his new radio and television hosting roles, even before the incident was made public.

Tsang, a former chief executive candidate, was invited by public broadcaster RTHK to host the new season of Hong Kong Stories. However, he did not declare the position to a government advisory committee on post-office employment, saying that the work was unpaid and he was not employed.

Tsang said the broadcaster suspended promotions for the show following enquires from the Chief Executive’s Office. After the incident was reported by local media last Saturday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that she hoped Tsang would respect the relevant system.

John Tsang
John Tsang in a promotion video for his RTHK guest hosting programme. Photo: RTHK Screenshot.

However, Tsang on Thursday said that he had been in touch with Jessie Ting, permanent secretary of the Chief Executive’s Office, via email since September.

Ting was asking him to provide information about his unpaid lecturing job at the University of Hong Kong, which he did and it was accepted. Tsang said he proactively mentioned that he would become an unpaid guest host at RTHK and Commercial Radio. Unpaid, not-for-profit or charitable work does not need to be declared under current rules.

Tsang said that Ting emailed him last Friday, a day before the incident was reported.

“She said she would further consider whether I have to declare the guest host positions for the two radio stations… I did not expect this saga before I received a reply from her,” he said.

It was the first time Tsang gave a response to last week’s controversy.

jessie ting carrie lam
Jessie Ting (centre) and Carrie Lam (right).

He said the incident may be caused by different interpretations of the post-office employment guidelines, and he hoped the government would not waste more time over this issue.

“It is not true that I did not respect the system or that I was being uncooperative,” he said.

The government was criticised by pro-democracy lawmakers for treating him differently to former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, who did not declare his directorship at two companies until the media revealed the appointments.

But Tsang said he did not feel he was being targeted, and he did not care about how the government treated others.

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.