Hong Kong ex-leader Tsang released after serving sentence

FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2017, file photo, Donald Tsang, former leader of Hong Kong, walks out of the High Court after being granted bail following his conviction. Tsang was released Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, after serving time in prison for failing to disclose plans to rent a luxury apartment from a businessman granted a government broadcasting license during Tsang's time in office. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

HONG KONG — Hong Kong's former top leader Donald Tsang was released Tuesday after serving time in prison for failing to disclose plans to rent a luxury apartment from a businessman granted a government broadcasting license during Tsang's time in office.

The 74-year-old Tsang, who served as Hong Kong's chief executive from 2005 to 2012, is the highest-ranking former or current official sent to prison for wrongdoing in the Asian financial hub, which prides itself on a reputation for clean governance.

The apartment, which is in mainland China, was for his retirement.

Tsang's 2017 conviction was a stunning downfall for the longtime civil servant whose career spanned both British colonial rule and Hong Kong's return to China in 1997. Last week, Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal accepted his petition to try to get his conviction overturned.

It also contrasts with the Hong Kong Justice Department's decision late last month not to prosecute former Chief Executive C.Y. Leung for failing to report a 50 million Hong Kong dollar ($6.4 million) payout from Australian engineering firm UGL Limited in its takeover of a company where Leung was a director.

The decision came after a four-year investigation by the city's anti-graft agency.

After serving one term as chief executive, Leung was appointed in 2017 to China's legislature as a vice chairman. Tsang turned down an appointment from Beijing.

Political commentator Ching Cheong said that Beijing is suspected of pressuring the Justice Department to drop the case.

"Both men failed to declare their interest before serving the city's highest office, but one was sent to prison the other got off," Ching said. "That's where the injustice lies."

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