Hong Kong’s former leader Donald Tsang Yam-kuen became the city’s highest-ranked official to be put behind bars. This is after he was sentenced on Wednesday to 20 months in prison for misconduct.
The city’s former chief also faces a retrial, set for September at the moment, for a bribery charge that the jury failed to reach a verdict on last week.
Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai cut Tsang’s sentence to 20 months from an original 30, giving him credit for a life dedicated to public service, which was backed up by letters that “all speak with one voice to his commitment to servicing the people of Hong Kong”.
Earlier that morning, Tsang was escorted to a prison van by officers as he was taken from Queen Elizabeth Hospital to the Hight Court to await sentencing.
Tsang, 72, spent the past two days in custody. He was admitted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s custodial ward on Monday night with a severe cough.
Earlier in the trial, Tsang’s defence lawyer Clare Montgomery QC had asked the judge to show “compassion”, asking for her client's sentence to be suspended, meaning he would not have to serve any time if he did not commit another offence within a certain period.
Montgomery also said the “ordeal” of the trial had had an effect on Tsang’s physical and mental health.
After a high-profile six-week trial, the jury found Tsang had failed to disclose a conflict of interest when he approved three applications from radio broadcaster Wave Media between 2010 and 2012, including a request for a digital broadcast licence.
At the time, Tsang was in negotiations with property tycoon Bill Wong Cho-bau over a Shenzhen penthouse where he planned to retire. Wong was also a 20 per cent shareholder of the radio station.
During the trial, the prosecution said Tsang had “abused the system” by keeping the property a secret from the Executive Council while they were discussing the applications despite rules requiring executive councillors to declare any conflicts of interest.
The former chief executive also faces a retrial for the charge of accepting an advantage while he was chief executive.
Despite deliberating for 20 hours, the jury were unable to reach a verdict on that count, which argued that Tsang received HK$3.35 million worth of renovations on a Shenzhen apartment as a bribe for approving the Wave Media applications.
But the jury found Tsang not guilty of another charge of misconduct, which related to suggesting interior designer Barrie Ho Chow-lai for an honour at the time Ho was redesigning the three-storey apartment.
Tsang did not reveal his connection to Ho, but the jury found that this did not constitute misconduct in public office.