Ex-HK leader vows to clear name following jail time

Mr Donald Tsang, who was Hong Kong's leader from 2005 to 2012, was convicted of misconduct in office.
Mr Donald Tsang, who was Hong Kong's leader from 2005 to 2012, was convicted of misconduct in office.

Former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang has vowed to clear his name after he completed a 12-month prison sentence for misconduct in office.

Mr Tsang, who suffers from asthma, spoke to the media briefly at Queen Mary Hospital yesterday morning, where he had been transferred to last Friday after complaining of being unwell while in the maximum-security Stanley Prison.

"You will understand that as a Hong Konger, under Hong Kong's rule of law, I have to persist in seeking justice. I have to clear my name. I cannot give up," he said.

Holding his wife's hand, he expressed gratitude to his supporters. He said he wanted to spend time with his wife and family, and have a "normal and quiet" life in retirement.

Journalists asked Mr Tsang, who was the city's leader from 2005 to 2012, to compare his case with that of another former Hong Kong leader, Mr Leung Chun Ying, who was subjected to a four-year investigation in connection with allegations of misconduct.

The allegations were linked to a HK$50 million (S$8.7 million) payment from Australian engineering company UGL, which bought a firm of which Mr Leung was a director. Part of the payment, for a non-compete pledge, was made after he took office but was allegedly not declared. Last month, the government dropped the probe against him because of a lack of evidence.

"If you don't mind, I do not wish to compare, because it would rekindle my anger and hatred that were cleared a few months ago after a lot of effort," Mr Tsang said without elaborating. "There is only one thing in my heart today: gratitude."

 
 

When asked what the first thing he wanted to do was now that he was free, he said he wished to have a chat with his wife, Selina, and enjoy a cup of coffee - something he has not had for "a long time".

He said he was able to speak with her, without privacy, only once a week in jail.

He is the first Hong Kong leader to have been convicted in a criminal trial. He was charged in October 2015 with failing to disclose his plans between 2010 and 2012 to lease a Shenzhen luxury flat from a major investor in a broadcast firm.

The broadcast firm was later granted a government broadcast licence, during his tenure in office.

His trial on two counts of misconduct in office and one of accepting a bribe began in January 2017. In mid-February that year, he was found guilty on one count of misconduct but acquitted of the other.

The bribery charge was left undecided by the jury. His sentence was shortened from 20 months to a year last July following an appeal.

The Court of Final Appeal will in May hear his final bid to overturn his conviction.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2019, with the headline 'Ex-HK leader vows to clear name following jail time'. Print Edition | Subscribe