Donald Tsang and wife share tender moment as verdict looms in misconduct trial
Asked how he is feeling, former chief executive tells reporters he believes in Hongkongers
Saying he placed his trust in Hongkongers, former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen shared a tender moment with his wife while the verdict on his bribery and misconduct case loomed as the trial entered the second day of jury deliberation.
The former chief executive kissed Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei on the cheek before he entered the courtroom on the fifth floor of the High Court, where the judge took on questions put forward by the retired jury earlier.
“I have already said I believe in Hongkongers,” he told reporters when asked how he was feeling about the imminent verdict on his corruption and misconduct trial.
Tsang left the court building after the judge finished tackling three requests from the jury of eight women and one man on Thursday, after they were sent away.
The city’s former leader, 72, has been standing trial since January for two counts of misconduct in public office and one of a chief executive accepting an advantage. He denies both.
He is accused of deliberately concealing from the Executive Council his ties with businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau over a three-storey penthouse in Shenzhen during the period when the council approved various applications, including one for a digital audio broadcasting licence for radio station Wave Media, of which Wong was a shareholder.
The penthouse, Tsang and his lawyers suggested, was rented from Wong’s company at a market rate of 800,000 yuan (HK$903,000). But the prosecutor argued the money was for a secret deal to buy the flat at an undervalued price, or for a “licence to occupy” the flat for as long as he wanted.
The penthouse at East Pacific Garden was owned by Wong’s companies, which also paid the property’s HK$3.35 million refurbishment fee, the prosecutor alleged.
Tsang is further accused of putting forward interior designer Barrie Ho Chow-lai for an honour under the city’s awards system without revealing to relevant government bodies that Ho was engaged in the design work for the penthouse.
On Thursday, the jury sought clarification from Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai, asking him to provide simpler examples on how they could decide without direct evidence whether someone had made a concealment deliberately. The question was raised against the backdrop of a number of inferences prosecutors had urged the jury to make in order to return a guilty verdict.
The jurors also asked the judge to clarify whether there was a need to prove the advantage – which the prosecutors had said was the refurbishment of the penthouse – was a reward for Tsang’s granting the Wave Media application.
As for the third request, they asked the judge to provide them with a copy of the speech he made earlier when summing up the case.
Selina Tsang has accompanied her husband to court over the past six weeks. The couple of more than 40 years, both Catholic, usually held hands when entering the court building.
Before the hearing resumed briefly on Thursday morning, she was asked if she had been praying for his husband.
“Yes,” she replied with a smile.
However, when Tsang left court, he told reporters he had not been able to attend church ever since the deliberation began.
“It’s a shame that I could not go to church over the past two days,” he said, adding that it had been a busy fortnight.
Meanwhile, Mr Justice Chan addressed the three requests put forward by the jury on Thursday.
He then sent them back to the jury room to resume their deliberation.
Jury’s requests and judge’s answers
In relation to the charge alleging that Tsang used the city’s honours system to reward interior designer Barrie Ho Chow-lai, the jury asked the judge to provide simpler examples on how they could decide whether someone had made a deliberate concealment without direct evidence. Also, what could be considered a reasonable excuse and justification?
Background: Tsang is accused of suggesting Ho be nominated for an honour under the city’s awards system without revealing to relevant government bodies that Ho was engaged in the design work for the penthouse. Instead, the prosecutor alleged, Tsang cited Ho’s contribution to the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Group with his design for its North Point building as the reason for putting his name forward.
Mr Justice Chan gave the example of a 16-year-old boy who lived only with his father. He failed all his exams, and the worried boy had to have the report card signed by his father and return it to his secondary school after a weekend. Although his father was away, the boy managed to return the report card with his father’s signature on it. It is later discovered that the card was not signed by his father.
In this case, Mr Justice Chan said, it could be inferred that the boy had signed it.
This was because the boy was the person who stood to benefit, and he had been alone that weekend, he said.
The reasonable excuse could be if the boy had called his father, notified him about the result and got the permission from his father to sign the card on his behalf, Mr Justice Chan continued.
The judge reminded the jury, however, that in the facts of this case, if they concluded that the defendant had acted deliberately and wilfully put Ho up for nomination, there would be little room to have a reasonable excuse or justification. “It is a matter for you, of course,” he told them.
Is there a need to prove the advantage Tsang allegedly received was a reward for granting Wave Media’s applications? Or there is no need to prove what the actual reward is?
Background: Tsang is accused of deliberately concealing from the Executive Council his ties with businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau over a three-storey penthouse in Shenzhen, when the council approved various applications, including one for a digital audio broadcasting licence for radio station Wave Media, of which Wong was a shareholder.
He is accused of accepting free refurbishment of the penthouse, amounting to HK$3.35 million, as an advantage to approve Wave Media’s applications.
The prosecution in this case has accepted they had to prove the necessary connection. They have to prove Tsang accepted the advantage because he was going to consider and make a decision in relation to those applications.
The jurors asked for a copy of the speech the judge made when he summed up the case earlier this week.
They cannot reach a majority verdict on the charge, accepting an advantage as chief executive, in particular:
1. What happens if they found Tsang had accepted the advantage, but did not establish it had something to do with his office?
2. What is the legal definition regarding conflict of interest and bribery?
Background: The charge accuses Tsang of accepting refurbishment, amounting to HK$3.35 million, for the penthouse at East Pacific Garden in Shenzhen, where he said he rented to stay temporarily after his retirement in 2012. The penthouse at East Pacific Garden was owned by businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau’s companies, which also paid the property’s refurbishment fee.
It is alleged that Tsang accepted it as a reward for various applications, including one for a digital audio broadcasting licence for radio station Wave Media, of which Wong was a shareholder.
Judge’s answer: They should take more time to consider. “Spend a little bit more time,” he told them.
He also said there was no legal definition for neither conflict of interest nor bribery. Instead of focusing on the term bribery, he said, they would turn to the wording of the charge Tsang is actually facing, which is a chief executive accepting an advantage under section 4(2) of the prevention of bribery ordinance.
As to whether there was a link between the advantage offered and the granting of applications, the judge said the prosecutors accepted the refurbishment had to be a reward for Tsang to “consider and make decisions” of the applications.