Jurors in trial of former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang ordered not to work on Saturdays
Judge’s instruction comes one day after director of health apologised to court following juror’s complaints
The judge presiding over the graft trial of former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has ordered jurors not to work on Saturdays and warned any employer who fails to heed his instructions would be in contempt of court.
High Court judge Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai’s instructions on Tuesday came one day after the director of health was summoned to court to apologise after a juror complained about being made to work weekends.
Chan told all nine jurors tasked with returning a verdict on the former chief executive over a bribery charge that they were under “no obligation” to work while serving their civic duty, citing the Jury Ordinance.
Tsang’s trial was sidetracked on Monday to deal with the complaints made by the juror, whose employer is the Department of Health. The department sent the court a fax, signed by director of health Dr Constance Chan Hon-yee last Friday, saying the employee in question was required to work every other weekend, despite the judge’s earlier attempt to write to them and suggest otherwise.
This resulted in an unusual scene when the judge summoned the director of health before him with just a few hours’ notice to give an explanation at the witness box.
Despite pressure from the judge, the director stopped short of promising that her department would free the juror, only saying that she had been in contact with the secretary for civil service. She offered an apology to the court for causing inconvenience, however.
Mr Justice Chan, who said the government should lead by example and not let jurors be exploited by their bosses, handed down an order for the juror on Tuesday anyway, even though he is expecting to hear back from the Department of Health on Monday next week.
Meanwhile, Kenneth Mak Ching-yu, permanent secretary at the Office of the Chief Executive between 2010 and 2012, continued to testify at his former boss’s trial, where Tsang denied one count of accepting an advantage as chief executive during the same period. The 73-year-old is accused of accepting renovation work costing at least HK$3.8 million for a penthouse in mainland China where he planned to stay temporarily once he retired.
In return, the prosecutors said he became “favourably disposed” to local radio station Wave Media and did not declare any conflict of interest.
The court heard earlier that since there were no rules governing the chief executive’s declaration of interest, Tsang followed what the prosecutors suggested was a “secret rule in his head”, when he accepted private yacht and jet trips from his tycoon friends. The trips fell under media scrutiny just before the arrangements for the penthouse in Shenzhen came to light.
But defence counsel Selwyn Yu SC on Tuesday suggested that Tsang was following a “self-imposed” disciplinary guideline. Mak agreed.
The judge took issue, saying that rules and guidelines are different. He said an independent review committee, chaired by former chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang who was appointed by Tsang, had used the word rules. At that time, no one from the Office of the Chief Executive suggested it was more of a guideline.
“This is a very important matter from the independent review committee. And your boss [Tsang] asked my former boss Mr Andrew Li to chair the committee,” the judge said.
Mak said it might be a problem arising from translation because he and his colleagues, who replied to the press in Chinese, used the term “guidelines” and it only became “rules” in the English version.
The trial continues on Wednesday.