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Hong Kong's former chief executive faces corruption charges

Donald Tsang, a Catholic, says his 'conscience is clear'
Hong Kong's former chief executive faces corruption charges

Hong Kong's former chief executive, Donald Tsang, right, and his wife Selina, left, arrive at a court in Hong Kong on Oct. 5. Tsang, a Catholic, was accused of corruption while in public office. (Photo by Philippe Lopez/AFP)

Published: October 06, 2015 09:45 AM GMT
Updated: October 05, 2015 11:35 PM GMT

Former Chief Executive Donald Tsang has become the highest ranking official in Hong Kong to be prosecuted for alleged misconduct in public office.

Tsang appeared at the Eastern Magistrates' Courts on Oct. 5 to hear two charges laid against him by Hong Kong's anti-graft commission.

"My conscience is clear," Tsang told media after he was released on HK$100,000 bail, or about US$13,000.

Selina Tsang stood at her husband's side, calling him "a man of honesty and integrity."

"We longed to live a simple and tranquil life after retirement, staying away from politics. To the contrary, pitifully, we find ourselves dragged in a whirlpool," she said.

Tsang is publicly known as a fervent Catholic who attended Mass every morning before work. After he finished his education at a Jesuit-run high school, he briefly became a salesman before he entered the civil service. He retired as Hong Kong's chief executive in 2012.

However, media exposed his alleged irregularities before his term ended.

Of the two charges Tsang now faces, one alleges that he failed to disclose his negotiations over the lease of a Shenzhen flat, which was owned by a major shareholder of a media company. The company had been applying for a broadcast licence in Hong Kong.

When the allegations first surfaced in 2012, Tsang said he paid the fair market price for the apartment and that it was rented as a post-retirement home because it was located near a church.

The other charge alleges that Tsang did not disclose his relation to an architect, who was decorating his apartment, when he proposed that the architect be considered for an award.

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, whose term as bishop of Hong Kong from 2002 to 2009 overlapped with Tsang's term in office, told ucanews.com he would not comment on the case because it has entered legal proceedings.

"But Tsang is a fervent Catholic," Cardinal Zen said. "I will pray for him."

Donald Tsang attends Mass at St. Joseph's Church in Hong Kong in June 2005, shortly after he was elected chief executive. (ucanews.com file photo)

 

Public opinion

For some, Tsang's prosecution comes as a surprise, considering the original investigation began in 2012. Officials in Beijing and Hong Kong had also been quoted recently implying that the chief executive is above the administrative, judicial, and executive branches of government.

Joseph Cheng, a retired professor of political science, said Tsang's case demonstrates that the local judicial system will investigate suspected crimes "no matter how high you rank."

"It took three years for the investigation partly because it involved [a property in] mainland China," he said. "The public will be concerned if the judiciary would feel pressure to operate justly and fairly when dealing with cases this like."

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief secretary, urged the public not to jump to conclusions. Speaking with the media, Lam reminded the public of Tsang's decades of service.

"I will pray for him every day," said Lam, who is also Catholic.

The current chief executive, CY Leung, told media that the decision to prosecute Tsang "was made independently and did not involve any political consideration."

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