Donald Tsang

Jury struggles to reach verdict in former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang’s bribery case

But presiding judge Andrew Chan tells eight-member panel it is too early for split decision

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 November, 2017, 11:18am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 November, 2017, 1:20pm

Jurors at former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s bribery trial have told the presiding judge that they are struggling to reach a consensus.

After eight and a half hours of deliberation, the jury wrote to the judge at 11.05am on Friday, saying that they were having difficulty reaching an at least 6-2 majority verdict.

“We, members of the jury, cannot reach a verdict of majority [sic] even have discussion further,” the note in English read. “We decide to ‘split’,” it continued, referring to a verdict falling short of the minimum requirement.

But High Court judge Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai noted that the jury had been sent away only shortly after noon on Thursday. “In my view, it’s still too early. There is still time for further deliberation,” he said.

The judge reiterated that the jurors should pool together their individual experiences. He then sent them back to the jury room.

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Earlier on Friday, Chan had answered two questions from the group of four men and four women, which they had advanced on Thursday night after failing to reach a verdict after seven hours.

Tsang has been on trial since September 26, and is accused of accepting free renovation of a penthouse, worth HK$3.8 million in total, and in return becoming “favourably disposed” to a local radio station.

Although the prosecutors mentioned during the trial that Tsang had granted three applications, including one for a potentially lucrative digital broadcasting licence, to Wave Media, they relied more broadly on the argument that Tsang had become “favourably disposed” to the broadcaster.

The subtle difference prompted the jury to ask if it would still be considered corruption if Tsang had accepted the refurbishment, but not in relation to the licensing applications.

“The short answer is yes,” Chan said.

The jurors then asked whether the offence had to involve matters relating to the licence in order for them to reach a guilty verdict. No, the judge replied.

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

On hearing Chan's response, Tsang remained frozen in the dock for minutes, showing no intention of leaving the courtroom even after the judge had left.

The red-eyed former chief executive finally walked out, rubbing his nose on his way to join his family in a conference room on the same floor.

The judge reconvened the jury soon after as he found the previous answers might not be sufficiently accurate.

As Tsang left the courtroom for the second time that morning, he whispered in his wife’s ear: “No justice.” Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei has been consistently at her husband’s side throughout the trial.

The former top official, who led the city between 2005 and 2012, has denied one count of accepting an advantage as the chief executive between 2010 and 2012.

The prosecutors said he accepted the renovation for the penthouse on the mainland, in which he intended to retire after stepping down. The property was owned by Wave Media’s majority shareholder, Bill Wong Cho-bau, who paid the renovation bill.