Rise, fall of Tsang offer lesson to officials

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/2/23 0:23:39

Former Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was sentenced to 20 months in prison without probation on Wednesday for misconduct while in office. Tsang, 72, was accused of deliberately concealing private rental negotiations with a property tycoon while his cabinet discussed and approved a digital broadcasting license for a now defunct radio company, in which the tycoon was a major shareholder.

Since Tsang is the first former chief executive to be put behind bars, the verdict has shocked Hong Kong society.

Several points of the case have attracted the public's attention.

First, many Hongkongers have sympathized with Tsang since he had been serving the city for decades. Dozens of public figures pleaded for a lenient sentence for Tsang. But, at the same time, few people believe he is innocent or wronged.

Second, central government officials and mainland State-owned media have made no comment on the case.

Third, Tsang's family and lawyer have vowed to appeal. If the verdict is upheld, only amnesty would prevent Tsang from serving jail time. There are no signs this would happen.

Tsang's case shows that there is no end to building a clean government. A relatively sound legal system and high salaries for public officials failed to stop corruption in Hong Kong.  

In fact, the integrity of US and European public officials is also frequently scrutinized. Trump's new cabinet includes several tycoons. Whether their personal wealth would be positively affected by their positions is being closely watched.

There are indications that more societies in the world are getting tougher on corruption. If Tsang's case had happened during the British colonial rule era, he would unlikely have been put on trial. But with the progress of democratization after Hong Kong's return to China, public supervision of officials and demand for integrity have become one of most intense in the world.

The higher the rank, the greater the risk, that means officials must practice more self-restraint. In recent years, the number of officials accused of corruption has increased, while the governance standard is also on the rise. This sends a clear warning to all officials. 

Tsang contributed to Hong Kong's prosperity after the city's return. His life was an inspiration, rising from a salesman to the city's top leader, but suffering disgrace at the end of his career.

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