AS IT HAPPENED: Former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang bailed by court on misconduct charges over luxury flat lease
Former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen appeared at Eastern Court this afternoon to answer two charges of misconduct in public office.
Tsang, 70, who has become the highest-ranking former city official ever to be embroiled in a misconduct trial, reiterated a statement outside court that he had a “clear conscience” and “every confidence that the court will exonerate” him after its proceedings. Here's how SCMP covered today's events live ...
3.13pm: Tsang’s wife, Selina Tsang, makes a statement before she leaves court, saying the couple has been “dragged into a whirlpool” even though they longed for a life away from politics during the former chief executive’s retirement.
“I have known Donald for 56 years. He is, beyond a shadow of doubt, a man of honesty and integrity. For 45 long years as a public servant, he has been preoccupied with serving the people. To get his job done, he would start working even before his regular daily early morning mass in church. I am proud to say he has served with devotion and diligence.
“We longed for peace and tranquility in retirement, away from politics. Instead, we now find ourselves dragged into a whirlpool. Most beyond reason, over the past three and a half years, we have been harassed daily.
“We count our blessings in our family, friends and the many citizens who have given us support and comfort. We treasure the trust they have placed in us. I am confident that the court will eventually exonerate Donald.
3.08pm: Tsang leaves the court room with his wife, reiterating to the press pack the statement he issued around noon: “Over the past three and a half years, I have assisted fully with the investigations by the Independent Commission Against Corruption. My conscience is clear. I have every confidence that the court will exonerate me after its proceedings.”
3.06pm: Tsang leaves the witness room, where he spends a couple of minutes with his lawyer, and is escorted into a lift by his bodyguards. Again, reporters are not allowed to enter the lift.
3.05pm: Speaking about Tsang’s case this afternoon, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said: “As the prosecution has already commenced, it would not be appropriate for me to comment or say how serious or how not serious those charges are. Those matters will be before the court and it will be up to the court to decide the matter.”
He stressed that the decision to commence prosecution was made in accordance to the related law and evidence and no political consideration was involved.
In regard to the investigation by the ICAC, Yuen said that over the past three years, related work by the Department of Justice to offer legal advice to the ICAC and obtain independent legal advice from overseas QCs had not been stopped.
3pm: Outside court, prosecutor Alain Sham said the maximum sentence of each charge entailed seven years' imprisonment, which could have been a District Court case. But the prosecution has sought for the case to be transferred to the High Court because of Tsang’s high-status as stated in the Prosecution Code.
2.40pm: A stiff looking Tsang hears the details of the offences against him read out by a member of the court staff, at times putting his hands on the wooden panel. He answers "I understand" twice after the two offences are named.
Tsang is bailed on condition of a HK$100,000 cash bond. He must inform the court of any change of residence 24 hours beforehand, not interfere with prosecution witnesses, and inform the ICAC 24 hours before any departure from Hong Kong or on a shorter notice on a case by case basis.
Magistrate So Wai-tak appointed November 13 as his return date to Eastern Court.
2.28pm: Tsang holds the hand of his wife as he walks into the courtroom in preparation for the court session.
2.24pm: Here's the ICAC statement on the charges against Tsang:
2.18pm: Peter Duncan SC represents the former chief executive, while the prosecution is represented by Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Dr Alain Sham Chung-ping and Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Alice Chan Shook-man.
2.12pm: Tsang has remained in a witness room guarded by what appear to be four bodyguards since he entered the court. The window on the door has been blocked by curtains.
2.10pm: Read the background on Tsang's tenure as chief executive here:
READ MORE: For Donald Tsang, a pledge of 'clean and efficient' service gave way to questionable decisions
2pm: Members of the press are prevented by police officers and what appear to be bodyguards from entering the same lift as Tsang and his wife.
Reporters repeatedly question why Tsang can enjoy the privilege of a private lift, but the questions remain unanswered.
1.58pm: Tsang, who celebrates his 71st birthday in two days, arrives at Eastern Court accompanied by his wife Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei.
He's wearing a red velvet coloured bow tie and matching pocket square in his suit breast pocket.
1.50pm: Almost 100 journalists – local, foreign and from mainland China – are waiting outside the court in anticipation of Tsang's arrival.
1.45pm: Dozens of reporters have gathered outside Eastern Court and the headquarters of the city's graftbuster, as the Independent Commission Against Corruption laid corruption charges against former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
In Sai Wan Ho, security has been noticeably tightened as police put up barricades at the doorsteps of Eastern Court, where Tsang is expected to enter. Police at the scene said Tsang was expected to arrive at the court at about 2pm.
Former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said he had a “clear conscience” ahead of an appearance in court this afternoon, where he will answer two charges of misconduct in public office related to his lease of a luxury Shenzhen flat from a tycoon at a bargain rate.
Tsang, 70, who will become the highest-ranking former city official ever to be embroiled in a misconduct trial, is scheduled to appear in Eastern Court at 2.30pm. He was seen this morning entering the Independent Commission Against Corruption headquarters in North Point.
Tsang issued a statement to the South China Morning Post through his personal assistant around noon, saying he had a clear conscience.
“Over the past three and a half years, I have assisted fully with the investigations by the Independent Commission Against Corruption. My conscience is clear. I have every confidence that the court will exonerate me after its proceedings.”
The first charge alleges that between November 2, 2010 and January 20, 2012, Tsang, in the capacity of the chief executive, “willfully misconducted himself by failing to declare or disclose to, or by concealing from” the Executive Council his dealings with a major shareholder of Wave Media Limited, when the council met to discuss, and approved, various licence applications by that company, later renamed as Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong Limited. Tsang did that without reasonable excuse or justification, the ICAC alleges.
In a statement, the Department of Justice named the shareholder of Wave Media Limited as Bill Wong Chor-bau. Later, Wong told Cable TV he would not comment on the matter citing the ongoing judicial process.
The ICAC said Tsang’s negotiations with Wong related to a lease for a three-storey residential property in East Pacific Garden in Shenzhen, and concerned the payment of 800,000 yuan to a company of that sharedholder in November 2010.
The second charge alleges that between about December 2010 and July 2011, Tsang willfully misconducted himself by failing to disclose to, or by concealing from the permanent secretary for his office, the Development Bureau and the Honours and Non-official Justices of the Peace Selection Committee the following: his interests in the lease of the Shenzhen flat and the engagement of an architect responsible for the interior design work of that flat. Tsang was proposing that the architect be referred for consideration for nomination under the city's honours and awards system.
The Department of Justice named the architect in this second charge as Barrie Ho Chow-lai.
The case arose from corruption complaints, ICAC said.
The department, which decides on whether to press charges, said last Tuesday it had given the ICAC legal advice, including whether to prosecute Tsang.
READ MORE: As his graft probe nears end, former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang appears at city's National Day reception
The advice was delivered after examining the anti-graft agency’s latest findings submitted in mid-September, the department said. Tsang made his last appearance at a National Day reception on October 1 at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, standing in the front row of dignitaries.
He officiated at a toasting ceremony alongside Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah. When asked by the Post if he was worried about being prosecuted at the reception, Tsang smiled, waved and refused to answer.
Tsang had avoided public events, such as the annual handover anniversary reception on July 1, since an investigation began in 2012 into allegations that he accepted favours from tycoon friends while holding the city’s highest office from 2005 to 2012. On September 3, he joined a delegation from Hong Kong to attend a military parade in Beijing marking the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the second world war.
Tsang has been released on ICAC bail, pending his court appearance. Misconduct in public office carries a maximum penalty of seven years' jail.