Former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang cleared of conviction for misconduct

Mr Donald Tsang was the most senior city official to be convicted of a crime and the highest-ranking one to be jailed.
Mr Donald Tsang was the most senior city official to be convicted of a crime and the highest-ranking one to be jailed.

HONG KONG • Former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang saw his conviction for misconduct quashed by the city's top court yesterday, the final twist to one of the financial hub's most high-profile corruption cases.

Mr Tsang was jailed in 2017 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 74-year-old, who held the leadership post of chief executive for seven years from 2005, was the most senior city official to be convicted in a criminal trial and the highest-ranking one to be put behind bars. But yesterday, he was exonerated by the Court of Final Appeal, which quashed his conviction for misconduct in public office, ending a seven-year legal ordeal.

Mr Tsang, who was released from jail in January on health grounds, was not in court for the verdict. But he issued a statement. "Seven years of tangled legal battles have finally ended. My heart is filled with gratitude," he said, adding that much of his savings had been swallowed up by the court cases.

The unanimous decision overturned two lower court rulings which found that his failure to make a declaration of interest over the flat deserved steep punishment because of the high office he held.

The acquittal revolved around improper directions given by the trial judge to the jury over the misconduct charge, given that jurors had cleared Mr Tsang of a more serious bribery offence.

It is a major blow for the city's anti-corruption watchdog, which has long been accused by critics of being toothless and has now seen its most famous conviction collapse.

Mr Tsang was Hong Kong's second leader after the 1997 handover to China. He was regarded as a safe pair of hands who carefully steered the financial hub through the global economic crisis caused by the 2008 financial crash.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2019, with the headline 'Former HK leader Tsang cleared of conviction for misconduct'. Print Edition | Subscribe