Donald Tsang and his wife Selina. Photo: RTHK

Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal quashed a conviction for misconduct in public office against former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen on Wednesday.

The 74-year-old former Hong Kong leader who led the city from 2005 to 2012 received the news of the court ruling in Europe, where he and his family are on a holiday. He said he was very grateful that a long legal battle spanning more than seven years was finally over.

Tsang, who was the territory’s most senior official ever to be charged with a criminal offense, was found guilty of failing to disclose to the Executive Council a property deal he had with business tycoon Bill Wong Cho-bau between 2010 and 2012.

Wong’s company was applying for a digital radio license at the time.

The Court of Appeal sent Tsang back to jail in July 2018 for 12 months following the dismissal of an appeal. He was released in January this year after suffering health issues throughout his sentence.

The top court on Wednesday quashed Tsang’s conviction and sentence and said there would be no retrial. The panel of five judges ruled that the trial judge had not given jurors adequate directions before they found Tsang guilty in 2017, Radio Television Hong Kong reported.

Tsang issued a statement and a voice message after receiving the court ruling.

In the voice message, Tsang said he and his family were overseas and all of them were very excited, happy and thankful to receive the ruling from the Court of Final Appeal, Apple Daily reported.

He thanked the top court for clearing his name and also his family, legal teams, former colleagues, friends and “tens of thousands of Hong Kong people” for their support, adding that the encouragement and support from all these people were the motivation for him not giving up the appealing.

In a statement he issued through a public relations representative, Tsang said he and his family had undergone a period of internal struggle over whether to take the case to the top court as they were exhausted from the investigations and trials, plus he had already spent almost all their savings on legal costs.

Tsang said it was his wife who insisted on clearing his name. He also insisted on taking the case to the top court because he wanted to prevent his case being regarded as a precedent for the future, deterring public officers from participating in crucial decision-making processes, just to avoid remoting potential conflicts of interests.

Tsang said he and his family would continue to pursue a peaceful life and he would pray for a better Hong Kong.

Tsang joined the colonial government as an executive officer in 1967 and held many positions dealing with local administration, finance, trade and policies relating to the return of Hong Kong to China. In 1995, he was appointed as financial secretary, becoming the first ethnic Chinese to hold the position under British administration.

Tsang was well known for his role in defending the Hong Kong dollar’s peg to the US dollar during the Asian financial crisis in 1998 from attacks by hedge funds led by George Soros.

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