Donald Tsang

Ex-Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang pleads not guilty to bribery charges

Former chief executive is highest-ranking official ever to face criminal trial in city’s history

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 10:44am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 11:27pm

Former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, Hong Kong’s highest-ranking official to stand trial, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to misconduct and corruption charges over a rental penthouse across the border in Shenzhen.

More than a year after he was charged, Tsang denied two counts of misconduct in public office and one of a chief executive accepting an advantage, between 2010 and 2012, as his trial began under heightened security at the High Court.

An interpreter read out the charges, each of which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail. “Not guilty,” Tsang, 72, replied in a stern voice, using Cantonese.

Watch: Donald Tsang arrives at the High Court to face charges

Wearing a chequered black bow tie, his trademark wardrobe accessory, Tsang held his wife, Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei, by the hand as he walked into the court in Admiralty.

Restrictions were in force to keep both the media and the public away from the fifth floor where the trial was held until 45 minutes before the court was in session. It was broadcast outside the courtroom on television screens, but access was controlled.

The former chief executive was mostly grim-faced, but was friendly towards reporters when they ended up sharing a lift. He remained tight-lipped when asked whom he would back in the coming chief executive race in March.

Tsang is accused, as chief executive and presiding over the Executive Council, of wilful misconduct in failing to disclose his dealings with businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau over the three-storey Shenzhen penthouse.

Wong was a major shareholder of radio station Wave Media, later renamed Digital Broadcasting Corporation or DBC.

Tsang allegedly “approved in principle and formally granted” applications by Wave Media for a digital broadcasting licence, the surrender of its AM radio licence and the appointment of Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung as DBC director and board chairman.

As a reward, Tsang did not have to pay for the refurbishment and redecoration of the penthouse, according to the charges.

He is also accused of recommending interior designer Barrie Ho Chow-lai for nomination ­under the city’s honours system between December 2010 and July 2011, but failing to disclose that Ho had been engaged for interior design work for the penthouse.