image

Donald Tsang

As freedom looms for jailed former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang the legal battle to clear his name is far from over

  • Courtroom drama, hospital visits, and spells in and out of prison, the past three years have been anything but quiet
  • Now one more fight remains as ex-chief executive aims to overturn his conviction
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 December, 2018, 8:59pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 December, 2018, 11:00pm

After three years of costly courtroom drama, trips in and out of prison, and numerous hospital visits, Hong Kong’s former leader Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is expected to regain his freedom in mid-January.

Multiple sources have confirmed to the Post that Tsang is going to be released after spending Christmas and New Year behind bars, although the exact date has not been revealed.

By that time, Tsang would have served about nine months of his one-year sentence, for which he would be entitled to a one-third discount for good behaviour.

That probably explains the 74-year-old’s jolly mood on Thursday, when his lawyers took to the Court of Final Appeal to ask for one last chance to overturn Tsang’s conviction for misconduct in public office.

Clad in a navy suit that matched his trademark bow tie, Tsang’s face lit up in the dock as soon as he caught a sight of his family members taking to the public gallery to support him, as they have throughout his protracted legal fight to clear his name.

He was generous in exchanging smiles with reporters sitting next to him. And, during a break in proceedings, he joked about losing weight, and traded caring words with Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei, his wife of almost 50 years.

“It was really early this morning,” he said, when describing his journey to court from maximum security Stanley Prison.

He assured his family, including younger son, Thomas Tsang Hing-shu, brother Tsang Yam-pui, a former police commissioner, and sister Katherine Tsang King-suen, that everything was OK as they huddled around the glass fences of the dock.

“I am fine. Don’t worry. It doesn’t matter, whatever happens,” Tsang said.

Donald Tsang gets green light for final appeal

It was a statement that best underscored his fluctuating health, wavering political influence, and the legal uncertainty he has been living under since he was charged three years ago.

The city’s chief executive from 2007 to 2012, Tsang was brought to court for the first time in October 2015.

Two years later, in February 2017, he was found guilty of misconduct in public office – one of the three charges he faced – over an undeclared rental deal with mainland tycoon Bill Wong Cho-bau over a luxury penthouse in Shenzhen.

But, that was far from the end, as while Tsang was acquitted of one of two corruption charges he faced, the jury failed to return a verdict on a remaining one, setting the scene for a second trial later that year.

He was jailed on February 20, 2017, for 20 months, a day after being sent to hospital, the first of many visits. He served his term until April, when he was granted bail pending an appeal.

Since then, Tsang has reappeared in the public spotlight. He showed up on July 1 last year to celebrate the city’s 1997 return to Chinese rule, a prominent event that Tsang, having just been convicted, missed the previous year.

He was back in court in November 2017 for his second trial, where the jury again failed to reach a decision, forcing the prosecution to drop the remaining conviction charge.

Tsang remained on bail until July this year, when the Court of Appeal judges rejected his appeal against his conviction, jailing him again, although they reduced his jail sentence from 20 months to 12.

That time, Tsang was taken out of the courtroom on stretcher and spent several days in hospital, before he was later returned to prison in a wheelchair, where he spent five further months until Thursday.

While Tsang will be a free man in January, the legal uncertainties hovering over him remain. On Thursday, the Court of Final Appeal judges scheduled his last-ditch appeal for May 14, after ruling that he had a case to argue.