Two former top officials refuted suggestions that they had tried to indirectly influence a jury in a bribery trial against former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen by showing up at the courtroom during a hearing last year.
Wong Yan-lung, former justice secretary, and John Tsang Chun-wah, former financial chief, stressed that they attended a hearing only to show support for Donald Tsang, who has been their old friend, and that they had no ulterior motives.
Their self-defense came after Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai, who was in charge of the case, said on Tuesday that he suspected that a public relations company hired by Donald Tsang had tried to convey to the jury that the defendant was a reputed person who enjoys support from various high-profile figures in society.
The PR firm sought to influence the jurors’ thinking by getting prominent personalities such as the former finance and justice chiefs to sit in an area reserved in the courtroom for the defendant’s family and friends, Chan suggested.
The judge, who described the tactic as a “back door” effort, specifically named Wong as one of the figures, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Donald Tsang stood trial after being charged with the crime of “chief executive accepting an advantage”, violating section 4 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance.
The charges pertained to acceptance of free renovations of a penthouse in Shenzhen between 2010 and 2012, when Tsang was Hong Kong’s top leader, from a businessman.
In a statement on Wednesday, Wong called Chan’s allegation “factually incorrect”, saying his attendance was his own decision rather than an arrangement by any PR or consultancy firm.
He claimed he just wanted to be there to offer encouragement and moral support to Donald Tsang, his former colleague and personal friend, noting that they had worked together for seven years.
The former justice chief revealed that he once wrote a petition letter for Donald Tsang in early 2017 for the same reason.
Explaining why he sat in the area reserved for Tsang’s family and friends when the hearing was in progress, Wong said he had seen the former CE his family outside the court before the hearing began and hence joined them in the courtroom.
John Tsang also said through a spokesman that his attendance in the courtroom was purely a personal decision, and not because of any instruction from a PR firm.
The former finance chief said he came to the hearing because cared about Donald Tsang, who he described as a friend.
Caring for friends is a “universal value”, he said.
Amid the controversy sparked by the judge’s allegations, Donald Tsang issued his own statement, saying that he appreciates the deep concern and support shown to him and his family by members of the public and his friends during the past few years that were difficult for him.
Although the case ended up being dismissed on Nov. 3 last year because the jury failed to reach a verdict despite hours of deliberations, Chan on Tuesday ordered Donald Tsang to pay a third of the government’s legal cost, which was estimated to be around HK$5 million.
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