Shenzhen penthouse design ‘tailor-made’ for Donald Tsang and wife, complete with ‘intelligent toilet bowl’, court told
Award-winning designer Barrie Ho was also told to put movable desk in calligraphy room and set aside storage space for former Hong Kong leader’s souvenirs
The design of former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s intended temporary retirement home in Shenzhen – which included a calligraphy room, wine cellar and landscape garden – was “tailor-made” for him and his wife, the High Court heard on Wednesday.
The award-winning designer engaged for this purpose was specifically instructed to install an “intelligent toilet bowl” in the master bedroom toilet of the 6,700 sq ft mainland penthouse and put in a movable desk in the calligraphy room believed to be used by Tsang’s wife, the nine-member jury was told.
Other instructions included setting aside storage space for Tsang’s “souvenirs” – collected over his four-decade civil service career – which led to two suites being transformed into a “storeroom and walk-in closet”.
“How would you describe it? Is that basic design?,” prosecutor David Perry QC asked designer Barrie Ho Chow-lai, who testified on Wednesday.
“If I were asked to do a tailor-made design, I would not call it a basic design,” the prosecution witness replied.
Tsang, 72, has denied one count of accepting an advantage as chief executive and two counts of misconduct in public office.
It is alleged that he abused the city’s awards and honours system to secure Ho a medal of honour in 2011 for the design work done in the same year without disclosing their relationship to the relevant bodies.
On Wednesday, Ho testified that he had met Tsang’s wife Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei – and sometimes Tsang himself – on 14 occasions between 2011 and 2012 to discuss the refurbishment of the East Pacific Garden penthouse in Shenzhen.
The meetings, the jury heard, took place at the Government House, which was Tsang’s residence at the time, Ho’s office, and the Shenzhen property.
“She’s quite an introvert. She did not express herself explicitly, that is, she would not show whether she’s happy or unhappy,” Ho said, recalling when he presented the preliminary plan to Tsang’s wife for the first time.
The designer said that during these meetings, Selina Tsang would suggest changes to the design. On one occasion, he recalled, she suggested removing the engine room of a swimming pool in order to enlarge a garden.
Although Ho testified that the design was “tailor-made”, he said the materials selected stopped short of being luxurious.
The court earlier heard that Ho charged a HK$350,000 fee for his work on the HK$3 million refurbishment of the three-storey penthouse, a sum prosecutors alleged was fully paid by companies run by businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau. The three-storey penthouse was also owned by one of Wong’s companies.
Tsang is accused of concealing his ties to Wong, a major shareholder of Wave Media, between 2010 and 2012, when the Executive Council he presided over processed – and ultimately granted – the broadcaster’s application for a digital radio licence.
Ho said on Wednesday that representatives from Wong’s company participated in some of the meetings between him and Tsang’s wife in order to manage to project, which was carried out by a mainland contractor called Jinggong Decoration.
He denied having any direct contact with Wong over the redecoration of the Shenzhen penthouse, however.
The trial continues before Andrew Chan Hing-wai on Wednesday afternoon.