Hong Kong Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui has resigned after he attended a birthday party for a delegate to China’s top legislature which was suspected to be in violation of Covid-19 social distancing rules.

In a statement published on Monday, Tsui said that he “will take responsibility” for his actions and therefore decided to resign. Tsui said he submitted his resignation on Monday and intends to leave his post on the same day.

Caspar Tsui Ying-wai
Under Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Caspar Tsui Ying-wai. File photo: GovHK.

“As one of the Principal Officials taking the lead in the anti-epidemic fight, I have not set the best example during the recent outbreak. I made the wrong decision to attend a banquet on January 3 and behaved in an inappropriate manner when all efforts should have been devoted to controlling the spread of the virus,” the statement read.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to join the Government and serve the people of Hong Kong. I would also like to thank the Chief Executive, my colleagues and friends from various sectors for their support and guidance.”

Over 200 guests were later discovered to have attended the gathering, including 13 senior government officials and 20 lawmakers, despite the initial declaration that only 170 people attended the party.

Most attendees were spared compulsory quarantine at Penny’s Bay after after a guest was found to be a false positive case. However, Tsui and two other top government officials – Director of Immigration Au Ka-wang and Allen Fung, the political assistant to the secretary for development – and four lawmakers were sent to the government quarantine camp until January 17.

, local media reported.
Party host Witman Hung and Ellen Tsang, both election committee members. Photo: Internet.

While the other government officials returned to their duties on Monday after completing a further seven days of self-monitoring at home, Lam said she had ordered Tsui to take leave until after the Lunar New Year holiday.

Tsui’s resignation came before Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the results of a government investigation into Witman Hung’s now infamous birthday bash on January 3. Lam is set to meet the press at 3 p.m.

The 44-year-old’s verified Facebook account appeared to have been removed before the announcement was made, though his contact details were still listed on the government telephone directory.

Tsui, who is a member of the pro-Beijing DAB, joined the government as the political assistant to secretary for home affairs in 2008. He became the under secretary for labour and welfare in 2017, and taking over as secretary for home affairs in 2020.

Starry Lee
Starry Lee. File Photo: Legislative Council, via Flickr.

Starry Lee, chairperson of the DAB, said in a statement on Monday that she “respected” Tsui’s decision, and that she hoped that Tsui can “serve citizens and contribute to society in the future.”

‘Very disappointed’

During a press briefing last Tuesday, Lam said she was “very disappointed” in the minister, who was tasked with high-level responsibilities including setting and executing the city’s Covid-19 policies.

Officials “cannot bring the government into disrepute,” Lam said. 

Reports of the birthday party emerged on the eve of stricter social distancing rules being imposed, and as Hong Kong was racing to stop the the spread of Omicron, a more infectious Covid-19 variant, in the community.

Under Secretary for Home Affairs Jack Chan is set to replace Tsui for the remainder of Lam’s term. He joined the government in 1983 and was appointed as the under secretary in 2017. Chan was also one of the 15 government officials who attended the birthday party.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.