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After hotel expense saga, Tsang cancels Japan trip

Gary Cheung and Danny Mok
May 04, 2012

Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has abandoned plans to make a swansong trip to Japan following controversy over his lavish hotel expenses on an official visit to Brazil last month.

One critic said Tsang had learned a lesson from the storm over the Brazil trip.

The outgoing chief executive “actively considered” visiting Tokyo and Sendai from May 14 to May 16. He was to head a delegation of government officials and business leaders for three days of the seven-day itinerary organised by the Trade Development Council.

The visit was also to include a stop in Sendai to meet residents affected by last year’s tsunami and would have been Tsang’s last overseas trip before stepping down as chief executive next month.

But a spokeswoman for the Chief Executive’s Office said last night that Tsang abandoned the idea because he needed to oversee implementation of chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying’s proposed government restructure.

“There are a number of crucial bills the government is striving to secure passage for by the Legislative Council in the next two months. In view of the latest development, the chief executive decided to stay in Hong Kong,” the spokeswoman said.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung will replace Tsang as the head of the delegation.

The spokeswoman had no comment on whether Tsang’s decision was related to recent controversy sparked by a TVB (SEHK: 0511) report that he paid US$6,900 for a one-nightstay in the presidential suite of the Royal Tulip Brasilia Alvorada hotel last month and his alleged acceptance of favours from tycoon friends.

An office spokesman said last week that the 360 sq m suite at the Royal Tulip was booked to meet security needs and because it had a room for internal meetings and to receive local representatives, saving on the cost of renting a separate conference room. But Tsang did not receive local representatives in the room.

At the next stop, in Sao Paulo, Tsang stayed at the Renaissance Sao Paulo Hotel, payingUS$1,250 for one night at the second most expensive room, the Mayflower Suite.

Since April last year, Tsang has spent HK$4.2 million on nine official trips, excluding Brazil. During his tenure, Tsang made more than 50 overseas trips, costing more than HK$10 million. TVB also reported that during a trip to the United States in November Tsang reportedly stayed in a presidential suite at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, costing taxpayers more than HK$40,000 a night.

Before the report, Tsang had already been besieged by a series of conflict-of-interest rows since February over alleged favours from tycoon friends, including trips on private jets and luxury yachts. Cheung Man-kwong, of the Democratic Party, said Tsang had apparently learned from the Brazil lesson. “There are many jobs for him to do in this transition period. It would not be responsible of him to travel up to the last minute [of his term].”

But Cheung said Tsang’s decision would not help stop the plunge in his popularity.

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