The High Court sentenced former chief executive Donald Tsang to 20 months in jail on Wednesday for misconduct while he was leader of Hong Kong.

Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai originally sentenced him to 30 months, but reduced it to 20 having taken into account his good character and contributions to society. He rejected the defence’s plea for a suspended sentence and ordered a retrial for September over Tsang’s bribery charge.

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Former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang (C) reacts as he walks towards his car from the High Court after the jury found him guilty of misconduct in his high-profile corruption trial, in Hong Kong on February 17, 2017. File photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP.

Tsang, 72, is the first leader of the city to be convicted in a criminal trial. Counsel for Tsang said they would appeal against his conviction for the misconduct charge.

Hospital transfer

He was sent to custody on Monday at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, a maximum security institution. Three hours after arriving at the detention centre, however, he was rushed to Queen Elizabeth Hospital after complaints that he was feeling unwell.

He remained at the hospital for two nights, before arriving directly at court in handcuffs on Wednesday morning.

Tsang’s wife, sons and siblings were at the sentence hearing. His wife was seen crying inside the courtroom, according to RTHK.

Luxury flat

A nine-person jury found the ex-leader guilty of misconduct last Friday in an 8:1 vote for failing to disclose his plans to lease a luxury flat from a major investor in a broadcaster, which was later granted a licence from the government under his watch.

But jurors unanimously acquitted him on another misconduct charge over an allegation that he failed to declare that an architect he proposed for a government award was employed as an interior designer on the apartment.

The jury could not reach a majority decision on a third charge of bribery against Tsang, which alleged that he took the redecoration and refurbishment of the flat as a kickback.

They asked to be disbanded last Friday, and Mr Justice Chan agreed.

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The High Court. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

On Monday, Tsang’s lawyer submitted more than 40 mitigation letters to the court, including those written by former chief secretaries Anson Chan, Carrie Lam and Henry Tang, ex-finance chief John Tsang, and Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam.

“Mr Tsang may be criticised for poor judgement but in all the years that we have been colleagues and close friends, I have never known him to commit a dishonest act,” Anson Chan said in her letter to the court.

The misconduct offence carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.