Ex-chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was given a break from prison life after a Hong Kong court granted his bail application on Monday.
Tsang was earlier convicted and jailed for 20 months over a misconduct charge involving a penthouse in mainland China. He is applying to the Court of Appeal for a temporary release pending an appeal against the conviction and sentence.
Nine G4 bodyguards, charged with protecting chief executives, incumbent and former, immediately appeared in the vicinity of the court to prepare for Tsang’s release.
The city’s former leader stood behind the dock in a full navy suit, with his trademark bow tie. His hair had noticeably greyed since earlier public appearances.
Donald Tsang jailed 20 months for misconduct, becoming city’s highest-ranked official to be put behind bars
Prior to the hearing, his wife Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei had said: “Yam-kuen’s health has been fluctuating lately, but [he] will definitely recover.”
She thanked the public, his friends, family and former colleagues for their support over the past two months. Tsang Yam-pui, Tsang’s brother and a former police commissioner, also attended court.
On Monday, Tsang was transferred to the court building in Admiralty from Queen Mary Hospital, where he had been staying. He had been moved there from Stanley Prison after complaining of breathing problems.
During the hearing, presided over by Mr Justice Wally Yeung Chun-kuen, Tsang asked the correctional service officers near him for an inhaler. At one point, his sister gave him some water.
In February, the 72-year-old former leader was found guilty of one count of misconduct in public office as the city’s chief executive between 2010 and 2012.
The charge accused him of deliberately concealing his negotiations over a three-storey penthouse in Shenzhen with businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau when he approved various applications, including one for a digital audio broadcasting licence, for radio station Wave Media, of which Wong was a shareholder.
Other approved applications by the broadcaster included the surrender of its analogue licence, as well as the appointment of executive councillor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung as its chairman.