Peking's man in HK gave to Tories

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The Independent Online
Changing times, changing loyalties. The man chosen by the Chinese Communist Party to head Hong Kong's first post-colonial government made a pounds 50,000 donation to Conservative Party funds at the last election. But an embarrassed spokesman for Tung Chee-hwa responded yesterday with an "Oh no, definitely not", when asked whether such a donation might be repeated. The spokesman was at a loss to explain why the donation had been made.

Mr Tung, a 59-year-old shipping tycoon, will be formally "elected" to the post of Chief Executive of Hong Kong on 11 December, with Peking's blessing. Most of Mr Tung's influential backers were even bigger donors to the Conservative Party.

Mr Tung describes himself as a "conservative" and has strong links to Britain through studying at Liverpool University and his partial ownership of the Felixstowe container port. His shipping companies, in the Orient Overseas group, have extensive British connections.

In theory, Mr Tung is in the middle of an election campaign for the post of chief executive, as the top government job will be called once China resumes sovereignty over Hong Kong on 1 July next year. In practice, the Chinese leadership has made its preference clear to the 400-strong hand- picked committee which will be participating in the election. Displeasing Peking is not high on its list of priorities.

Like other tycoons in Hong Kong, Mr Tung distanced himself from the British Government following the appointment of Chris Patten as Governor and the introduction of democratic reforms.

Profile, page 19