Hong Kong’s highest court has approved former chief executive Donald Tsang’s application to make a final bid to overturn his conviction of misconduct in public office.

In July, Tsang lost an appeal against his conviction and returned to prison to serve the rest of a 12-month sentence. His application to go to the Court of Final Appeal was heard on Thursday and was approved by the court’s top judges.

Donald Tsang (second from right). File Photo: Citizen News.

The case will be heard on May 14 next year. Tsang, currently in prison, did not ask for bail. He will likely complete his sentence in January, before the final appeal is heard.

Tsang, 74, was the first Hong Kong leader to be convicted in a criminal trial. He was charged with failing to disclose his plans to lease a Shenzhen luxury flat from a major investor in a broadcast firm. The broadcast firm was later granted a government broadcast licence, during his tenure.

On Thursday, Queen’s Counsel Clare Montgomery – who represented Tsang at the Court of Final Appeal – argued that when the case was heard at the Court of First Instance, the judge should have been instructed by the jury to consider whether Tsang was aware of the fact that failing to declare a deal with a local businessman was unlawful.

But Queen’s Counsel David Perry, who represented the prosecution, argued that the judge of the Court of First Instance had correctly communicated the guidelines to the jury.

Three judges of the Court of Final Appeal approved the Tsang’s appeal after a short deliberation.

Tsang was originally given a 20-month sentence, but the Court of Appeal reduced his sentence to 12 months, back in July. The court also reduced Tsang’s legal fees from HK$5 million to HK$1 million.

Court of Final Appeal. File photo: inmediahk.net.

In an earlier trial at the Court of First Instance, Tsang was unanimously acquitted of another misconduct charge. This was over an allegation that he had failed to declare that an architect he had put forward for a government award had also been employed by him as an interior designer for his penthouse.

The jury could not reach a consensus on a third charge of accepting an advantage over his penthouse renovation works at the first trial. A retrial was held over the charge, but another jury also failed to reach a verdict last November. The prosecution said that it would not seek another retrial unless the court directed it to do so.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.