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Donald Tsang

Former leader Donald Tsang goes from penthouse dream to cramped cell as he begins jail term at Stanley Prison

Convicted ex-top official to be given plastic bed and one roll of toilet paper every three weeks while serving 20-month sentence at maximum-security facility

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 February, 2017, 11:45am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 February, 2017, 1:58am

Former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, Hong Kong’s highest-ranking official to be jailed for a criminal offence, was spotted for the first time wearing an inmate’s uniform on Friday as he began serving his 20-month sentence at Stanley Prison.

On a cold, windy morning, the man who ran the city for seven years was seen in handcuffs and wearing a surgical mask and a brown prison jumpsuit – a far cry from his dapper suits and trademark bow ties – as he was transferred to Hong Kong’s largest jail from the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, a holding facility where he had spent the ­previous two nights.

Watch: Donald Tsang gets 20 months in prison

A prison van with tinted windows to keep out prying eyes and the media’s cameras brought him to Stanley at 11.36am.

It is understood that prison authorities have approved Tsang’s request for special protection. That would include remaining on his own during events which would otherwise involve interaction with other prisoners – including his one hour of daily free time and his regular work duties.

An inside look at ex-chief executive Donald Tsang’s life in Stanley Prison

His first day in Stanley Prison went by without a visit from his wife, who used up half her monthly quota of two visits when she met him at Lai Chi Kok on Thursday.

Tsang, 72, was sentenced by the High Court on Wednesday for misconduct in public office after being found guilty last week of deliberately concealing his negotiations with businessman Bill Wong ­Cho-bau over a three-storey Shenzhen penthouse he planned to live in when he ­retired from government.

During this period, between 2010 and 2012, his administration approved several applications by radio station Wave Media, of which Wong was a shareholder.

Tsang can have his sentence reduced by a maximum one-third for good behaviour behind bars. That could see him serve time for just over 13 months and be released as early as March next year.

Until then he will be locked up in a cell measuring 80.7 sq ft, contrasting sharply with the 6,700 sq ft penthouse at the centre of his fall from grace. The penthouse had been fitted with luxurious facilities such as a library, calligraphy room, and landscaped garden.

He now has to settle for a plastic bed, desk and chair, along with a sink and toilet made of stainless steel.

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Tsang will be alone in his cell – the same as other inmates, as Stanley Prison only has single cells.

All prisoners are required to work, from making traffic signs to doing laundry. But Tsang is expected to be put on lighter tasks, such as binding books or making envelopes, according to a source.

He will be paid between HK$23 and HK$192 per week, depending on the work he does. When he was chief executive, he would take home a monthly salary of about HK$351,000 a month.

‘Devout’ Donald Tsang paying for his own sins

Tsang will be able to catch up with events outside the prison walls through restricted access to television and a certain type of radio set he is allowed to own. Newspapers and books will also be available.

Stanley Prison, located in Hong Kong ­Island’s south, also houses Rafael Hui Si-yan, chief secretary under Tsang’s administration, who is serving a 7 1/2-year sentence after being convicted in 2014 for bribery and misconduct in office.

But a reunion behind bars for the two old friends is unlikely because of protective measures keeping them apart from each other as well as other prisoners.