Former HK leader Donald Tsang says time with wife is top priority as he walks free after completing 12-month jail term for misconduct in public office

16-Jan-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Disgraced former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang Yam-kuen tasted freedom again on Tuesday after completing a 12-month jail term for misconduct in public office, saying that he had put aside anger and hatred and had only gratitude in his heart.

The 74-year-old ex-chief executive, who was discharged from Queen Mary Hospital’s custodial ward, thanked his supporters for being by his side through thick and thin, and described his desire for a life away from the public eye with his wife, Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei, who held his hand as he spoke.

“From today onwards,” he declared with a smile, “I can go home and reunite with my family and spend my ordinary and tranquil retirement life with my wife.”

Tsang’s first public exchange with the press in months was not without tough questions, as he was asked how he felt about the prosecutors’ recent decision not to press charges against his successor Leung Chun-ying over dropped corruption allegations in a separate investigation, as opposed to the charges laid against him.

“I would not make such a comparison, if you don’t mind, as it would remind me of the anger and hatred in my heart,” Tsang said without elaborating.

“There is only one thing in my heart today: gratitude,” he continued.

Once again sporting his trademark bow tie, the city’s former top official, who was admitted to hospital from jail last Friday, joked about his health as he spoke to reporters.

“I’m 74 years of age. I must have something wrong with me,” he said. His time in prison also took its toll, he added.

But he quickly dismissed health concerns with laughter.

“None of [my issues] is terminal,” he said, revealing, however, that he was required to return to hospital on Friday for some check-ups.

Tsang said the first thing he wanted to do out of jail was to spend time chatting with his wife of half a century.

“We only got to meet once a week through a glass with someone listening. I just want to talk to her,” he said.

The devoted Catholic said he was also looking forward to returning to church daily, and said he was longing for “a cup of much-missed coffee”.

He intended to soldier on for his final appeal against his conviction, scheduled in May, Tsang said, as seeking justice in Hong Kong required perseverance.

Last July, Tsang was sent back to the maximum security Stanley Prison after losing his bid at the Court of Appeal to clear his name although his sentence was cut from the original 20 months to a year.

The Court of Final Appeal will hear his last appeal on May 14.

There is only one thing in my heart today: gratitude

Donald Tsang, former chief executive

His case revolved around a luxury three-storey penthouse owned indirectly by businessperson Bill Wong Cho-bau in Shenzhen’s fashionable Futian district.

Tsang allowed himself to be compromised in a conflict of interest, prosecutors successfully argued, because he failed to disclose the deal during his time in office, even though he was in charge of granting various licences to local radio station Wave Media, also owned largely by Wong.

Tsang, who suffers from asthma, was taken to Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam on Friday night, though it was unclear what treatment he received. He was sent to hospital on a number of occasions after his conviction.

A Correctional Services Department spokesman said an inmate in hospital up until their release day would be freed from there rather than prison. He added that if further treatment was needed the inmate would be transferred from the custodial ward to other wards.

Following his conviction in 2017, Tsang served some of his sentence, but was granted bail two months later pending his appeal. He then spent about six months more in jail after the appeal court setback last July.

Tsang spent less than a year behind bars after holidays and good behaviour were taken into account.

Over the past two years, Tsang faced two trials, during which he was acquitted of one corruption charge, while two different juries failed to reach a verdict on a second corruption charge.

Upon his release, the former chief executive regained his perks, including bodyguards and chauffeur services. About six of his bodyguards, in black suits and blue ties, had arrived at the hospital before his departure.

His conviction prompted some to question whether the career civil servant, who had spent more than four decades in public service, would still be entitled to his pension, which was stated to be HK$80,000 (US$10,200) a month in earlier media reports.

A Civil Service Bureau spokesman said it was for the chief executive to decide whether an official who had committed a public office-related offence might have severely damaged the image of the city and people’s confidence in government service.

The officer may have his or her pension reduced or terminated, depending on the situation, the spokesman added, citing the Pensions Ordinance.

Some have questioned whether Tsang should keep privileges provided to former chief executives if he fails to overturn his conviction.

A spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau earlier said: “If any individual former chief executive cannot perform the promotional and protocol-related functions… the government will redeploy the relevant resources for other appropriate usage during the period.”


Category: Hong Kong

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