Ex-HK leader Tsang charged with misconduct
FORMER Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang was charged yesterday with two counts of misconduct in public office, the latest in a string of scandals that have ensnared senior business and former political figures in the financial hub.
He appeared at a magistrates' court yesterday and was released on a cash bail of HK$100,000 (S$18,300). He will appear again on Nov 13.
Grim-faced and wearing a trademark bow-tie, Tsang spoke only to confirm that he understood the two misconduct charges.
Speaking outside the court, he insisted his "conscience is clear".
"Over the past 31/2 years, I have assisted fully with the investigations by the Independent Commission Against Corruption. My conscience is clear. I have every confidence that the court will exonerate me after its proceedings," he said in a statement to the South China Morning Post.
His wife Selina, who was with him, said she was "deeply disheartened" by the case.
"We longed for peace and tranquillity in retirement... instead, we now find ourselves dragged into a whirlpool," she said.
Tsang, 70, retired in 2012 after a high-flying career as a civil servant, having served as a senior official in the former British colonial administration and as financial secretary.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said the charges related to a rental deal for a penthouse flat in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen and the nomination of an architect doing design work on the flat for a government award.
Public resentment towards him had centred on reports of lavish spending on overseas visits, along with taking trips with tycoons by private jet and luxury yacht and accepting a sweetheart rental deal for the Shenzhen flat.
The case comes less than a year after Hong Kong property tycoon Thomas Kwok and the government's former deputy leader Rafael Hui were jailed for graft, after Hui was found guilty of taking bribes from Kwok and Kwok's brother, Raymond.
While serving as chief secretary for administration, Hui was Tsang's deputy from 2005 to 2007.
He was jailed in December for 71/2 years on a total of five graft charges, making him the highest-ranking official in the city's history to be found guilty of taking bribes.
"The ICAC has been criticised for dragging its feet over the Donald Tsang case, so it's a way to improve the ICAC's image that it is picking on what the Chinese call the 'big tigers'," said political analyst Willy Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
"But there are still cases pending."
There are questions over why a complaint lodged with the ICAC against current leader Leung Chun Ying has not progressed, said Dr Lam. That case relates to a payment to Mr Leung of HK$50 million by an Australian firm just before he took office.
The fact that the ICAC is overseen by the chief executive has also raised concerns, added Dr Lam, who said any prosecutions would likely have been sanctioned by Beijing.