HK judge scolds ex-leader Donald Tsang, calls him 'uncooperative'

HONG KONG: A Hong Kong judge chided a former city leader now embroiled in a corruption case for being uncooperative and misleading the public, in rare, strongly worded comments that also put the city's rich and powerful under the spotlight.

Donald Tsang, the city's second leader after Hong Kong's 1997 handover from British to Chinese rule, is currently on bail pending appeal after being sentenced to 20 months behind bars for misconduct.

Two jury panels in two trials failed to reach a consensus on a separate, more serious bribery charge.

An independent legal system sits at the core of the wide-ranging autonomy promised to Hong Kong in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that guarantees it freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.

In a judgment issued on Tuesday, High Court Judge Andrew Chan ordered Tsang to pay a third of the prosecution's trial costs of HK$15 million ($1.91 million).

Justice Chan also described Tsang's attitude during investigations into his alleged offences as "far from co-operative", even though Tsang had told the public he had given his full co-operation.

"That seems to be very far from the truth," Justice Chan wrote, noting that Tsang's attitude had led to "totally unnecessary costs which the taxpayer had to pay".

A spokesman for Tsang said he had no comment on the judgment, but that he was discussing whether to appeal against having to pay the legal costs.

Justice Chan also rebuked the involvement of a public relations firm, which he said tried to bring prominent public figures into the courtroom, including the former justice minister and media personalities in an attempt to introduce good character evidence for Tsang to the jury "through the back door".

While there was no direct evidence the firm was engaged by Tsang himself, the inference was "overwhelming", Justice Chan wrote. - REUTERS