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Donald Tsang

Former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang taken to hospital while in custody

Ex-chief executive faces up to seven years’ jail for misconduct in office, as he waits behind bars for sentencing

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 February, 2017, 2:41pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 1:20pm

Disgraced former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen became Hong Kong’s first leader to spend a night in custody, as he was ­remanded ahead of sentencing tomorrow, when he is almost ­certain to be jailed for misconduct in office.

In a stunning reversal of ­fortune, Tsang, 72, swapped his suit and trademark bow tie for a prison jumpsuit last night after a judge sent him to the maximum security Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre and indicated a sus­pended sentence was unlikely.

But at about 9.25pm, he was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s custodial ward, in chains, after complaining of feeling ­unwell.

Tomorrow the former head of the city’s government will find out his punishment on one count of misconduct, which carries a maximum seven-year sentence.

On Friday, Tsang became the highest-ranked leader in the city’s history to be convicted at a criminal trial, when a nine-member jury found him guilty of de­liberately concealing a conflict of interest.

Tsang approved three applications from radio broadcaster Wave Media between 2010 and 2012, while he was negotiating the lease of a Shenzhen penthouse with businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau, a major shareholder of the station.

While he beat another misconduct charge, Tsang will face a retrial over a third count of accepting an advantage, after the jury failed to reach a verdict on it, ­although a date has not been set.

The bribery charge alleges that Tsang accepted HK$3.35 million worth of refurbishment work on the three-storey Shenzhen penthouse as a ­reward for granting the applications.

More than 100 reporters and photographers jostled for position around Tsang as he entered the High Court with Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei, his wife of almost 50 years. The media pack later blocked the prison van carrying Tsang as it tried to leave.

At the hearing yesterday afternoon, Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai indicated Tsang could expect a prison sentence, saying it was “highly unlikely” he would get a suspended jail term. Hong Kong judges have the option to suspend a sentence for up to three years, during which time offenders can avoid jail as long as they do not commit any ­offence.

Friends and foes present mitigation letters in support of former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang

Tsang’s defence counsel, Clare Montgomery QC, argued for a suspended sentence and a short prison term, asking the judge to take into account Tsang’s lack of “morally questionable motive” and the fact that his approval of the Wave Media applications was justified.

The defence noted the “outpouring of letters” in support of Tsang from both his political allies and opponents, including former ministers Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and John Tsang Chun-wah, who are both running to be the next chief executive.

“His has been a life devoted to public service and the people of Hong Kong,” Montgomery said.

“The reality is, there can be very few people who have served Hong Kong for longer or with greater distinction.

“Mr Tsang must now serve the rest of his life out with the knowledge that his reputation has been ruined and his legacy shattered.”

She urged the judge to show “compassion”, saying the trial had already been a “considerable ordeal” for Tsang and his family, and had led to a significant deterioration in both his mental and physical health.

Her client was also worried that others could be put off pursuing a career in public service, she said.“That is something that will live with him and be a punishment whatever your lordship does to him in terms of sentence,” she said.