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Hong Kong’s Tsang Apologizes for Disappointing Public on Ethics

Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang, who accepted private jet and yacht trips offered by tycoon friends, apologized for “disappointing” the public and said the government will impose rules to require officials to disclose conflicts of interests.

The government will adopt short-, medium- and long-term measures to ensure officials disclose conflicts of interests to the public, Tsang said today, in response to a review committee’s suggestion yesterday that anti-corruption laws for the city’s top leader should be tightened.

Tsang, whose term ends June 30, has been criticized by lawmakers for accepting trips to Macau and Thailand on yachts and jets owned by businessmen. The city should make it a criminal offense for the chief executive to receive any advantage, including transportation and hotel accommodation, without approval, the Independent Review Committee for the Prevention and Handling of Potential Conflicts of Interests said in a report released yesterday.

“Because of my inappropriate actions, the public had their confidence in Hong Kong’s clean government shaken,” Tsang told reporters today. “I again offer my sincere apology.”

Separately, Hong Kong’s Audit Commission said yesterday the city’s Chief Executive Office should be more “cost conscious” in spending related to overseas travel by Tsang. South China Morning Post reported that Tsang stayed in a $6,900-a-night presidential suite during his visit to Brazil.

Rein In Costs

The chief executive’s office needs to rein in costs associated with the preparation for trips by Tsang, the report said.

Travel spending by the office in 2011-2012 exceeded that of 2010-2011 because of more long-haul travels and lengthier stays, the report said.

Tsang said he will cooperate with the anti-corruption body in its investigation into his conduct, which was started after complaints from political parties.

The current system, which puts the chief executive above anti-graft rules, is “totally inappropriate,” the independent review panel, led by former Chief Justice Andrew Li, said in the report.

Leung Chun-ying, the chief executive-elect, said he welcomed the report and will seek to implement its recommendations on taking office, according to a statement on the government’s website yesterday.

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