HONG KONG • Former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang was hospitalised yesterday after losing an appeal bid against a misconduct conviction in one of the city's most high-profile corruption cases.
Tsang was jailed last year after being found guilty of failing to disclose his plans to lease a luxury flat from a major investor in a broadcaster which was later granted a licence from the government while he was leader.
The 73-year-old, who was the city's chief executive for seven years from 2005, is the most senior official ever to be convicted in a criminal trial and the highest-ranking one to be put behind bars.
His trial came at a time when residents were losing faith in Hong Kong's leaders after a string of corruption cases fuelled suspicions over links between public officials and business figures.
Tsang was released on bail last year after two months in prison, pending the appeal.
The Court of Appeal sent Tsang back to prison yesterday, but shortly after he was led out of the courtroom by security guards, he was taken away in an ambulance.
It defies belief that someone with the applicant's long experience... in government service could have overlooked the need to make a declaration of interest in these circumstances. (Tsang's conduct was) particularly serious, given his pre-eminent position in the community and the harm his actions will have engendered among the people of Hong Kong in their confidence in the way the government does its business.
HONG KONG COURT OF APPEAL, in its judgment.
Local media reported that he had "felt unwell" and was wearing an oxygen mask.
Yesterday's sentence brought an ignominious end to what had been a stellar career for Tsang spanning more than four decades.
Tsang, known for his love of bow ties, was knighted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth. 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 offence took place just before he retired in 2012, when reports began surfacing of his lavish trips, sometimes by private jet and on luxury yachts, with rich businessmen.
The court's judgment said: "It defies belief that someone with the applicant's long experience and background in government service could have overlooked the need to make a declaration of interest in these circumstances."
It added that Tsang's misconduct was "particularly serious, given his pre-eminent position in the community and the harm his actions will have engendered among the people of Hong Kong in their confidence in the way the government does its business".
But the court also reduced Tsang's sentence from 20 months to 12 months, saying the previous judge's starting point for sentencing was too high.
Speaking outside the court before Tsang was taken to hospital, his wife Selina said she was "disappointed and heartbroken".
"After discussing with the lawyers later, we will decide the next move as soon as possible," she told reporters.
Prosecutors during Tsang's trial characterised his conduct as an abuse of power to further his own personal interests.
In 2012, he apologised over separate allegations that he had accepted inappropriate gifts from business friends in the form of trips on luxury yachts and private jets.
His former deputy Rafael Hui was jailed for seven-and-a-half years in 2014 after being found guilty of taking bribes from Hong Kong property tycoon Thomas Kwok.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS