Ex-Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang released after completing 12-month jail term for misconduct in public office

Mr Donald Tsang, Hong Kong's leader from 2005 to 2012, was discharged from the custodial ward at Queen Mary Hospital, on Jan 15, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG - Former Chief Executive Donald Tsang has vowed to clear his name after he completed a 12-month prison sentence for misconduct while in office.

Tsang, who suffers from asthma, spoke to the media briefly at Queen Mary Hospital on Tuesday (Jan 15) morning, where he was transferred to last Friday after complaining of being unwell while in maximum security Stanley Prison.

"You will understand that as a Hongkonger, 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, Tsang 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 Tsang, who was the city's leader from 2005 to 2012, to compare his case with that of another former Hong Kong leader, Leung Chun-ying, who was subject to a four-year investigation in connection with allegations of misconduct.

The allegations were linked to a HK$50 million payment from an Australian engineering company UGL that bought a firm in which Mr Leung was a director. Part of the payment, for a non-compete pledge, was made after he took office but allegedly not declared.

In December, the government dropped the probe against Mr Leung due to 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," Tsang said without elaborating.

"There is only one thing in my heart today: gratitude," he added.

Asked what was the first thing he wanted to do now that he was free, Tsang 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 that he was only able to speak with her without privacy once a week in jail.

Tsang 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 2017, 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 Tsang's final bid to overturn his conviction.

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