Hong Kong Jails Former Chief Executive For Misconduct Linked to Property Deal

hongkong-bowtie-02222017.jpg Selina Tsang talks to reporters after her husband, former Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang, received a 20-month jail term for breach of public trust, Feb. 22, 2017.

Former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang was jailed for 20 months by a court in the former British colony that found him guilty of failing to disclose significant conflicts of interest while in office.

The city's High Court jailed Tsang after it found him guilty of concealing a property deal with businessman Bill Wong from the Executive Council (ExCo), the chief executive's cabinet, as it deliberated whether or not to grant him a license to run a digital radio channel.

Tsang, 72, known for his debonair manner and trademark bow tie, was found guilty of misconduct in public office, and will be the most senior public servant to be jailed in the city's history.

"Never in my judicial career have I seen a man falling from such a height," High Court justice Andrew Chan told the court as he passed sentence.

The sentencing came after Tsang was found guilty by a nine-person jury on Friday.

The court found that he had deliberately concealed private rental negotiations with property tycoon Bill Wong while ExCo discussed and approved a digital broadcasting license for Wong's now-defunct Wave Media shortly before his retirement in 2012.

Tsang, who was chief executive for seven years from 2005, still faces a retrial on a corruption charge linked to a free renovation of his Shenzhen penthouse apartment provided by Wong.

Justice Chan said the offense was particular serious owing to Tsang's high-ranking position in government, and his breach of public trust, as he had "deliberately concealed" his dealings with Wong.

But he reduced the sentence by 10 months in recognition of Tsang's dedication to public service spanning more than four decades.

After the sentencing, Tsang was escorted in handcuffs to the court from hospital where he'd been staying since Monday night after experiencing breathing difficulties and chest pains.

'A very dark day'

His wife Selina Tsang told reporters: "Today is a very dark day. I and the family feel extremely disappointed and upset by the sentence passed by the court today."

"Donald and I have been under constant pressure in the past five years, and have been the targets of extreme harassment, so we are very sad about today's outcome," she said.

"But we will face it with strength and courage, and we will be appealing," she added.

Earlier, Tsang had written in a newspaper column ahead of the sentencing that he had been honored to have served Hong Kong.

"In life, a lot of things are out of our control. But serving Hong Kong was my choice," he wrote, adding: "No matter what the result of the trial is, I have no regrets."

Lawmaker Starry Lee, who chairs the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB), said she hoped Tsang's jailing would act as a deterrent to other people in public office.

"I believe that this sentence with have a very large deterrent effect, and the whole affair has been a wake-up call and a learning process for public officials," Lee said.

"As for Donald Tsang ... he put a lot of effort into serving Hong Kong and brought in a lot of measures and policies to help local people, so we feel sad about this sentence," she said.

Tsang's conviction is the latest in a string of scandals surrounding powerful people in Hong Kong that have undermined the city's reputation as relatively graft-free.

Tsang's former second-in-command Rafael Hui was jailed for seven-and-a-half years in 2014 on bribery charges linked to his relationship with regional property giant Sun Hung Kai.

Reported by Lam Kwok-lap for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Chen Pan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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