Donald Tsang

Defence lawyer for Donald Tsang compares bribery case to Chinese martial arts novels in closing argument

Former chief executive’s barrister tells jurors to base judgment on facts not ‘creative’ stories from the prosecution

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 9:05pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 10:27pm

The defence lawyer for Donald Tsang Yam-kuen on Thursday accused prosecutors of weaving tales about the embattled former Hong Kong leader that sounded like they were taken from the pages of Chinese martial arts novels.

On the first day of his closing argument, Barrister Selwyn Yu SC told jurors their role in the bribery trial was to base their findings on facts, not listen to creative fiction from prosecutors.

“The prosecution needs to tell you an attractive story because there is no proof,” Yu said. “You are not here to listen to a story.”

Prosecutors have accused Tsang, 73, of accepting from Wave Media custom-made refurbishment worth HK$3.8 million (US$487,000) for a mainland penthouse, and in return, being “favourably disposed” to the local broadcaster.

Tsang has denied one count of accepting an advantage between 2010 and 2012 as chief executive.

Yu insisted that what prosectors described as a corrupt deal between the former top official and radio station boss, Bill Wong Cho-bau, was a “normal commercial give-and-take” transaction.

Yu scoffed at the prosecution’s claims that the accusations against Tsang were a “straightforward story”, after they included not just Wong, the majority shareholder of Wave Media, but other shareholders, including Bank of East Asia chairman David Li Kwok-po, as part of their allegations.

Yu likened the prosecution’s case to Chinese martial arts novels written by Jin Yong, saying it was an attempt to “string up a number of facts and characters to make up a good story” with “imagination and creativity”.

Wong indirectly owned the Shenzhen penthouse, which Tsang wanted to use as a retirement home, and had paid for the renovation, the prosecutors said.

In return, they said, Tsang became Wave Media’s “good ally”.

The prosecutors also said Li had paid HK$350,000 to Tsang, although they stopped short of saying the money was a bribe.

On Thursday, Yu said the prosecutors had never called any witness who physically passed money to Tsang, adding that it was an attempt to smear and damage Tsang and the witnesses reputation.

Yu also dismissed accusations that Tsang’s wife, Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei, leased the penthouse from Wong for a below-market rate, saying the 800,000 yuan (HK$940,000) payment was to secure the lease.

Had that been a bribe, Yu said, the money “was going the wrong way”.

He rejected claims that the renovations had been tailor-made for the Tsangs, arguing that the flat was old and needed to be remodelled.

He said the updates were a marketing decision made by Wong to make the property more attractive on the market.

Between 2010 and 2012, the court had also heard, several applications, including a potentially lucrative digital broadcasting licence, had been granted to Wave Media by Tsang while he was in charge of Executive Council, the city’s top advisory body.

Yu said the digital licence was in the public interest and should have been granted, and that the relevant authorities which conducted the assessment recommended the licence. He said evidence showed Tsang had never improperly influenced government departments.

In a cryptic comment, Yu also told the jury that part of their job was to prevent people from being convicted based on their popularity or political views.

The justice system “prevents people from being convicted because their politics have changed”, he said, without elaborating.

He criticised prosecutors for “stirring unnecessary feeling against businessmen and officials”, and for using “collusion” as a catchphrase to incite prejudice.

Decisions should not be based on “assumptions and speculations”, he told the jury.

“If you’re not sure about it you must return a verdict of not guilty.”

Senior counsel Wong Yan-lung, who was Tsang’s then Secretary for Justice, sat in the gallery to support him, as well as former Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

Yu is expected to finish his closing speech on Friday before Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai.