World

Tsang sentenced to 20 months' jail for misconduct

Former Hong Kong leader's wife vows to lodge appeal after sentence is passed in high-profile corruption trial

HONG KONG: When disgraced former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang was sentenced to 20 months' jail yesterday for misconduct in public office, he was stoic.

But his wife of nearly half a century wept and vowed to lodge an appeal.

"It is a very dark day today. We feel very disappointed and upset regarding the ruling from the court today," Mrs Selina Tsang was quoted as saying, in the South China Morning Post.

She said that over the last five years, they had been subjected to a lot of pressure.

"But we will toughen up and face it courageously. We will appeal."

She later added: "We are not saying goodbye. We have got a longer road ahead."

Mrs Tsang had accompanied her husband to court over the past six weeks. The couple, who are Catholic, usually held hands when entering the court building.

Last week, before the hearing resumed briefly one morning, she was asked if she had been praying for his husband. "Yes," she replied with a smile.

We are not saying goodbye. We have got a longer road ahead. Mrs Selina Tsang

Tsang is the most senior city official to serve time behind bars.

In an emotional column published on Monday in Chinese-language newspaper AM730, Tsang thanked his wife and family for their support over the past five years of "torment" since the Independent Commission Against Corruption investigations began, reported the South China Morning Post.

"I owe it to my family, especially my wife of almost 50 years, for putting up with the torment of the past five years," he wrote.

"She always showed me the most understanding smile and held my hand... Without her company, I have not a clue how I could have made it through the past five years of sorrow and hardship."

The sentence brings an ignominious end to what had been a long and stellar career for Tsang before and after the 1997 handover to Chinese control, service that saw him knighted by the outgoing British colonial rulers.

"Never in my judicial career have I seen a man falling from such a height," said High Court justice Andrew Chan, in passing sentence.

Tsang, 72, wearing one of his trademark bow ties, was escorted in handcuffs to the court from hospital where he had been staying since Monday night after experiencing breathing difficulties and chest pains, reported Reuters.

Scores of Hong Kong establishment figures, including top former officials and some leading opposition democrats, had written letters vouching for Tsang's good character and long-standing public service.

SERIOUSNESS

Justice Chan said the seriousness of the offence lay in Tsang's high position as a person of integrity who had breached public trust.

He reduced the sentence by 10 months, saying "it was indisputable that the defendant has dedicated himself to public service in the past 40-odd years".

Hong Kong had returned to China under a "one country, two systems" agreement that ensures its freedoms, including a separate legal system.

Its spartan British-built prisons demand strict routines, including light work duties, and offer no special treatment to wealthy or powerful inmates.

The nine-person jury last Friday found Tsang guilty of a charge of misconduct in public office.

He had deliberately concealed private rental negotiations with property tycoon Bill Wong Cho-bau while his cabinet discussed and approved a digital broadcasting licence for a now defunct radio company, Wave Media, in which Mr Wong was a major shareholder.

This offence occurred in the twilight of Tsang's career, just before his retirement in 2012, when reports began surfacing of his lavish spending on overseas duty visits, along with allegations of trips with tycoons by private jet and luxury yacht.

He was acquitted of a second misconduct charge.

His legal woes look set to continue, however, with the court saying a retrial would be tentatively set for September for another bribery charge on which jurors failed to return a majority verdict.

hong kongcorruptionpolitics