Hong Kong’s No.2 government official Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has thrown her support behind embattled former leader Donald Tsang Yam-kuen after Tsang was charged with misconduct in public office.

Speaking in Shenzhen on Monday, the chief secretary urged Hong Kong society not to forget Tsang’s contribution to the city as a civil servant for more than four decades. She also called on the media to give Tsang and his family space.

“I urge the public not to jump to conclusions and media friends to give Mr. Tsang and his family sufficient respect and not disturb their daily lives,” Lam said, according to pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po.

carrie lam defends donald tsang
Left: Carrie Lam. Right: Donald Tsang. Photo: HKFP.

“Mr. Tsang Yam-kuen served Hong Kong for over 40 years, he made huge contribution to Hong Kong’s political, economic and social development. I am very lucky to have worked with him for two periods of time… When he was secretary of finance, I worked under him, when he was chief executive I was his development minister. I can tell everyone: he was very dedicated in his service to Hong Kong society. He also spared no effort in cultivating the younger generation [of officials], including me. I hope society doesn’t forget this… I will pray for him everyday.”

Lam was visibly emotional as she spoke, Wen Wei Po reported.

carrie lam defends donald tsang
Donald Tsang’s slogan when running for chief executive in 2007 was “I’ll get the job done.”

Tsang, who turns 71 on Wednesday, is the highest ranking former official to be charged with misconduct in Hong Kong history. He stands accused by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of failing to disclose conflicts of interest concerning a rented apartment in Shenzhen during his tenure as chief executive.

Speaking to the press after appearing in court on Monday, Tsang, a devout Christian, said he is innocent and confident that he will be exonerated.

Tsang started out as an executive officer within the British colonial government in the 1970s and worked his way up the official ranks. He served in Hong Kong’s highest public office for seven years between 2005 and 2012. Allegations of corruption surfaced during the last few years of his time in office.

Tsang’s indictment came after a prolonged three-year investigation. Besides the rented luxurious apartment in Shenzhen, past media reports also alleged Tsang was invited to take free trips on business tycoons’ private jets and yachts. However, prosecutors did not charge him over these reports, saying that there was insufficient evidence to suggest misconduct.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.