17 February 2020
Former chief executive Donald Tsang, shown in this file picture with his wife Selina, said he is very grateful his long legal battle is finally over. Photo: HKEJ
Former chief executive Donald Tsang, shown in this file picture with his wife Selina, said he is very grateful his long legal battle is finally over. Photo: HKEJ

Court quashes Donald Tsang conviction

Hong Kong’s top court on Wednesday quashed a conviction against former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen for misconduct in public office, bringing to a close a legal battle that had tarnished his reputation after what had been a stellar career.

Tsang, 74, was the territory’s most senior official to be charged with a criminal offense. He had pleaded not guilty to misconduct charges in late 2015.

The former Hong Kong leader received news of the court ruling in Europe, where he and his family are on a holiday. He said he is very grateful that his long legal battle is finally over.

The Court of Appeal sent Tsang back to jail in July 2018 for 12 months following the dismissal of an appeal and he was released in January after suffering health issues throughout his sentence.

Tsang was jailed on a charge of misconduct in public office for failing to declare a property deal with a business tycoon, whose company was applying for a digital radio license between 2010 and 2012, RTHK reported.

The Court of Final Appeal on Wednesday quashed his conviction and sentence, and said there would be no retrial.

The panel of five judges ruled that the trial judge had not given jurors adequate directions before they found the former Hong Kong leader guilty in 2017, the public broadcaster said.

Because the jury had not been able to agree during the original trial that there was an element of corruption involved, the top court said it was important for the judge to properly instruct the jurors to consider the motive of Tsang for not disclosing the deal to Exco, according to RTHK.

The top court said it was important for jurors to decide whether Tsang had deliberately concealed the information, or if he simply didn’t see the need to do so, the report added.

“The appellant has already suffered what the Court of Appeal considered a just punishment for the offense in respect of which he would be re-tried,” the court said.

“That weighs heavily in favor of a conclusion that the interests of justice do not require a new trial. There should not be such an order.”

Exhausted but thankful

In a statement, Tsang said he and his family were exhausted from the trials, and he had already spent almost all their savings on the legal costs.

He said he had insisted on taking the case to the top court because he wanted to prevent his case to be regarded as a precedent for the future, deterring public officers from participating in crucial decision-making processes, just to avoid remote potential conflicts of interests.

He thanked his family, friends, former colleagues and “tens of thousands of Hong Kong people” for their support in the journey.

“Me and my family will continue to pursue a peaceful life,” he added.

Tsang was chief executive from 2005 to 2012. He was respected for pushing political reforms and helping to stave off speculative attacks on the Hong Kong dollar during the 2008 financial crisis.

The legal battle began in 2015 when Tsang was charged with misconduct in public office in a trial that centered around allegations of lavish spending on overseas duty visits and taking trips with tycoons by private jet and luxury yacht.

Tsang and his defense had stressed his years of upstanding public service during the trial. They maintained that he had done nothing wrong. With Reuters

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