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Donald Tsang

Seven hours not enough as deliberations to enter a second day in former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang’s bribery trial

Ex-chief executive and lawyers will be on standby and must return within half an hour when trial reconvenes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 10:51pm

Deliberations in former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s bribery trial will enter a second day after seven hours proved to be not enough time to reach a consensus on Thursday.

The four men and four women will continue to sift through the details of the trial on Friday to return a verdict after spending the night at the High Court.

Their charge is to determine whether the former chief executive is guilty of one count of accepting an advantage when he was in office between 2010 and 2012.

They were sent off to their jury room at 1pm, but failed to get at least six members – the minimum majority required for a verdict – on either side of the fence.

Shortly before they were allowed to break for the night, they came up with two questions for Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai at 8pm.

Tsang, 73, who has been on trial since September 26, is accused of accepting free renovation and, in return, becoming “favourably disposed” to a local radio station.

“If the renovation was accepted not in relation to the handling of Wave Media’s licences, does it constitute as corruption?” the jurors wrote in Chinese.

They also wanted to know whether a guilty verdict had to be related to matters to do with licensing.

During the day, the jury also asked for the relevant bribery law in both English and Chinese, which they were asked to consider.

Noting the late hours, Chan Hing-wai told them they would deal with the matter on Friday when the court reconvened at 9.30am. He told them not to discuss the trial during the adjournment.

The cooling weather and air-conditioned courtroom appeared to have taken a toll on Tsang’s existing respiratory condition.

Just before Chan reconvened the session to end deliberations for the evening, the 73-year-old coughed non-stop in the dock, requiring lawyers and assistants to hand him tissue paper and water.

Before deliberations began, Chan reminded the jury that they had to stay true to the oath they had taken, which was to give a true verdict according to the evidence.

“It is a responsibility you must now fulfil,” he said, adding that they needed to take their individual experience into the jury room.

“Your task is to put together your experience and wisdom,” he told them.

They should strive for an unanimous verdict, Chan said. But if they were unable to, he added, they were required to reach a majority call, upon which at least six of them agreed.

Tears shed as defence for former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang sums up closing argument at bribery trial

Prosecutors have accused the former top official of accepting custom refurbishment worth HK$3.8 million (US$487,000) for a mainland penthouse, where he intended to retire.

In return, they said, he would become “favourably disposed” to Wave Media, whose boss owned the penthouse in Shenzhen’s Pacific Garden and picked up the renovation bill.

The court heard the 6,700 sq ft penthouse, in the upscale Futian neighbourhood, was fitted with a calligraphy room, gym, winery and landscape garden, designed by internationally renowned designer Barrie Ho Chow-lai primarily at the request of Tsang’s wife, Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei, and her feng shui master.

Tsang had arrived at court at 9.25am, holding his wife’s hand. He was followed by his entourage of police bodyguards. He shook hands with some friends when he arrived at the fifth floor of the building, on his way to Court No 7.

Hong Kong government backs down over demand for juror to come to work amid Donald Tsang trial

During the trial, prosecutor David Perry QC underscored Tsang’s close ties not only with Wong, but with other Wave Media shareholders including Bank of East Asia chairman David Li Kwok-po and radio personality Albert Cheng King-hon.

While Li paid Tsang HK$350,000 at one point, Perry argued, Cheng introduced Ho to become the Tsangs’ designer.

It was a “straightforward story” about corruption that went to the very top of the government, with “as big a conflict of interest [as] you could wish to have”, Perry told the jury.

Tsang’s lawyer Selwyn Yu SC countered that the prosecutors had pasted together coincidences to make up a story like something out of a classic Chinese martial arts novel.

He said the renovation was part of the rental deal for which Tsang had paid a yearly payment of 800,000 yuan (HK$946,000).

If a verdict is not reached by 8pm, the jury is usually instructed to call it a day and resume their discussion the following morning.