|Antony LEUNG Kam-chung
|Financial Secretary of Hong Kong|
29 May 2001 – 16 July 2003
|Preceded by||Sir Donald Tsang|
|Succeeded by||Henry Tang|
29 January 1952 |
|Alma mater||Ying Wa College
University of Hong Kong
Harvard Business School
|Occupation||Chairman of the Blackstone Group
Visiting professor at the Nankai University
Antony LEUNG Kam-chung GBS JP (born 29 January 1952 in Hong Kong with family roots in Shunde, Guangdong) was the former Financial Secretary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). He now serves as the chairman of Blackstone Group's Asian office in Hong Kong.
A former banker and civil service outsider, he took the top economic post in one of the world's key financial centres on 1 May 2001. Newspapers said Leung gave up a plump banker's package of more than HK$23 million (US$3 million) a year for a more modest HK$2.45 million.
Before taking the government post on 1 May 2001, Leung served in senior management positions at big international banks in Hong Kong. He joined Chase Manhattan Corporation in 1996, where he rose to the rank of Asia-Pacific chairman. He oversaw the Asia-Pacific operation of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., which became the No.2 U.S. bank when commercial bank Chase Manhattan bought Wall Street investment firm J.P.Morgan in 2000. But he was relocated to Singapore right before he resigned from the post.
Leung started his banking career as a currency trader and spent 23 years with Citicorp where he took up regional management positions in investment, corporate and private banking in Hong Kong, New York, Singapore and Manila.
Before taking up the post, he was actively involved in public services. He was an unofficial member of the Executive Council (1997–2001 April) and was responsible for Education Reform when he was the chairman of Education Commission (1998–2001 April). The chair of the Commission was succeeded by Dame Rosanna Wong Yick-ming, the former chairperson of the Housing Authority who resigned before a vote of no confidence in the Legislative Council of Hong Kong following a scandal concerning the improper construction of housing estates under the Home Ownership Scheme.
A successful commercial banker, Leung's soft-spoken manner contrasted markedly with his charismatic predecessor, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. Although a more conservative figure than Tsang, he nevertheless had his share of media limelight.
Leung's marriage to Chinese Olympic diving queen Fu Mingxia in July 2002 had Hong Kong's paparazzi in a frenzy. This was Leung's second marriage and a baby, a girl, was born in February 2003. Fu, a three-times Olympic champion in her early 20s, is less than half Leung's age.
Leung was educated in Hong Kong. He received his secondary education in Ying Wa College and holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree, majoring in economics and statistics, from The University of Hong Kong. During his university studies, he actively participated in student activities and was concerned with political issues. It had been a long-term goal of Leung to be Financial Secretary, according to some classmates. He completed the Harvard Business School's Programme in Management Development in 1982 and the Advanced Management Programme in 1999. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 1998.
Tenure as Financial Secretary
When in office, he proposed, in 2001, to cut the salaries of civil servants by 4.5%. However, in the face of strong opposition, the cut was reduced to 1.8–2.3% and enacted through legislation. After that, the government proposed a further 3% in salary cuts over the following 2 years, 2005 and 2006.
He also stated that the government should succeed in balancing the budget by the 2006–07 fiscal year due to the recovery of the economy and further cuts in government expenditure. He claimed that it was necessary to balance the budget as quickly as possible so as to maintain the stability of the economy. He suggested expenditure cuts in different sectors, including university funding.
In September 2002, new HK$10 notes were co-issued by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Hong Kong government in response to the problem of fake 10-dollar coins. About 10 special features were applied to the new notes.
By the end of 2002, in response to the "penny stock" incident, he set up a 2-person commission, of which he was in charge, to investigate the incident.
After the outbreak of SARS, Leung was responsible for taking action to reinvigorate Hong Kong's economy. After receiving funding of HKD 1 billion from the Legislative Council, Leung was able to launch several initiatives including the "Harbour Fest". Following his resignation, however, the Fest became mired in controversy regarding the chaotic arrangements made with overseas artists like the Rolling Stones, and the financial relationship between the government and the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong to which inexperienced body had been entrusted the Fest's organisation.
Henry Tang, who became Financial Secretary after Leung, said in a TV interview on 29 October 2008 that the contracts between the government and AmCham were signed when Leung was still in office. "AmCham came up with this creative idea for a musical event,... [which] required us to grant it five years' custodial rights, I believe then financial secretary [Leung] thought it was reasonable."
Tang later clarified that the contracts were signed by Rowse and not Leung. Tang said Rowse was a civil servant and as such was not required to be held politically responsible.
Before his resignation, he signed the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) with China, which, it was believed, could help Hong Kong get out of a prolonged economic downturn.
The "Lexusgate" scandal
Leung came under severe criticism in January 2003 when he bought a HK$790,000 (US$101,282) Lexus LS 430, just weeks before he raised the tax on new vehicles in his March budget.
Although Leung claimed that he had decided on the tax increase after buying the car, which he said his family needed because of the arrival of his first-born in February, news of the car purchase dealt a blow to the Hong Kong government's credibility as well as to the effectiveness of the newly introduced Principal Officials Accountability System (POAS).
Leung denied that he was trying to avoid the new tax, which would have cost him an additional HK$50,000. (USD 6,400).
In view of the public outcry, he tried to defuse the controversy by donating money to the Community Chest, a local charity. He also submitted his resignation, which Chief Executive of Hong Kong Tung Chee-hwa refused to accept. The government's unwillingness to take action after the scandal broke brought into question the sincerity of Tung's commitment to establishing an accountable government.
Hong Kong's Department of Justice said in July 2003, after receiving a report from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), that it was considering whether to charge Leung over the car controversy, which came to be known as Lexusgate.
On 16 July 2003 Leung resigned with immediate effect in the wake of mass protests over the government's handling of a controversial anti-subversion bill, having failed to reduce record high unemployment and revive battered consumer confidence. His resignation came just hours after Secretary for Security Regina Ip said she was stepping down, for personal reasons.
On 15 December 2003, the Department of Justice announced that it was dropping the case against Leung.
At the time of their resignations, Ip and Leung were seen as the most unpopular members of Tung's cabinet.
No specific reason was given for Leung's departure, but the car scandal was just one of the problems in his chequered tenure.
An interesting contrast between Leung and Ip after their departure from the government was highlighted by Beijing's apparent attitude towards them. Some central government officials invited Ip for what she called a "private visit to bid farewell". Leung, however, did not receive a similar invitation from the central government officials who used to work with him. Analysts said that this might hint at their respective chances of a political comeback. Ip eventually returned as a Legislative Councillor after the 2008 election. Leung was seen to be helping the poor in China. Henry Tang took over from Antony Leung as Financial Secretary.
Because of Leung's personal network, established when he worked in the commercial sector, misunderstandings and perceived conflicts of interest sometimes occurred. For example, he was seen hob-nobbing with Li Ka Shing, the wealthiest tycoon in Hong Kong and Asia, on the golf course after he came to office. After being criticised for this, he declared that it was merely a social chat between friends.
When he was in office, his words sometimes were criticised by others.
- "Call me 'Ah Chung'(「阿松」) instead of the job title," on the first day he came to office.
- "It is better for the public to know how to catch fish than for the government give fish away," when he was asked whether the government planned to utilise a HKD 40 billion reserve.  (21 August 2001)
- "One day, when I was at my previous job, I discovered that somebody delivered Chinese soup to our office... We should promote creative industry."
- He concluded the economic situation in Hong Kong as "What goes up, must come down" after the announcement of a budget. However, his choice for a Chinese idiom with a somewhat equivalent meaning ("有咁耐風流,有咁耐折墮", which roughly translates to "You will suffer for as long as you have been enjoying life") was criticised as being in poor taste.
- "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times", he adopted Charles Dickens' words in the first statement in the Address of the financial budget 2003–04.
- Cannix Yau (31 October 2003). "Leung 'not to blame for Fest contracts'". The Standard. Hong Kong.
- "Currency conversion, HKD to USD". Archived from the original on 17 February 2007. Retrieved 15 February 2007.
|Financial Secretary of Hong Kong
|Order of precedence|
Recipients of the Gold Bauhinia Star
|Hong Kong order of precedence
Recipients of the Gold Bauhinia Star
Recipients of the Gold Bauhinia Star