Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing yesterday admitted he was at fault for joining a WhatsApp chat with pro-establishment allies during a meeting last month ahead of a historic vote on the government’s political reform package.
The veteran Beijing-loyalist maintained, however, that he had chaired the reform discussions impartially over the two days, amid calls from the rival pan-democratic camp for him to resign over a perceived breach of neutrality.
Tsang was responding to a furore over leaked WhatsApp messages in which he shared with fellow government allies plans that he had heard from the pan-democrats and advised them on how to react in order to control the timing of the vote.
Yesterday, during a DBC radio talk show, he said he should not have joined the conversation.
“I admit this point. What was wrong was wrong,” he said.
“Sending the messages to pro-establishment legislators in the WhatsApp group during the meeting … was something I should not have done.”
Tsang also said that, in hindsight, his messages appeared unnecessary because the notes “would not help the matter”.
On June 18, pan-democrats defeated the reform blueprint in a humiliating 28-8 legislative vote after 31 pro-establishment lawmakers staged a walkout that they later said was intended to buy time for their colleague, rural leader Lau Wong-fat, to arrive for the voting.
Tsang apologised to the pan-democrats after the messages were revealed, but rejected calls for him to apologise to the public.
“I looked back at the June 17 and 18 meetings. Yes, I took part in the WhatsApp discussion. This was wrong,” he said on the show.
“But looking at the whole process, from debate to voting, I still think I had chaired the meetings in a fair manner. I didn’t bend any house rules in favour of any side.”
Two legislators from People Power are looking to move a vote of no confidence in Tsang.
Tsang earlier said it was up to lawmakers to decide whether he had to resign. The vote would require support from half of all 35 lawmakers from functional constituencies – mostly Tsang’s Beijing-loyalist allies.
He also revealed his intention to start a think tank after his planned retirement next year.
The think tank would have a “clear position” and would provide policy ideas for people who aspired to be the city’s chief executive or a lawmaker, he said.