Hong Kong’s former chief executive Donald Tsang appeared at the city’s top court on Tuesday to appeal his misconduct in public office conviction.

Tsang has already finished serving his 12-month sentence and was released in January. But he said he decided to continue with his appeal to “seek justice,” and the Court of Final Appeal gave permission last year to hear his case.

Donald Tsang arriving at the Court of Final Appeal.

On Tuesday, his case was heard before a bench of five judges led by Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma, with the hearing expected to last a day.

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 luxury flat in Shenzhen from a major investor in a broadcast firm. The broadcast firm was later granted a government broadcast licence during his tenure.

Following his release in January, Tsang said: “You will understand that, as a Hongkonger, under Hong Kong’s rule of law, I have to persist in seeking justice. I have to clear my name. I cannot give up.”

Jury instructions

In his appeal to the top court, prosecutors and defence lawyers disputed whether the judge at the Court of First Instance gave correct instructions to the jury. Lawyers for Tsang argued that the judge failed to ask the jury to consider whether Tsang was aware of the unlawfulness of not disclosing the deal.

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

Donald Tsang released in January. Photo: Stand News.

In an earlier trial at the Court of First Instance, Tsang was unanimously acquitted of 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 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 in November 2017. The prosecution said that it would not seek another retrial unless the court directed it to do so.

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Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.