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Reuters/Bobby Yip
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Former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang has been arrested over alleged corruption

By Richard Macauley

Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, a former chief executive of Hong Kong, appeared in court today (Oct. 5) to hear two charges of misconduct in public office. That makes Tsang, who turns 71 this week, the former British colony’s highest-ranking former official to be arrested.

The accusations center on Tsang’s alleged failure to disclose dealings with a major shareholder of Wave Media Limited, a broadcast company. One allegation is that while he was in power, Tsang rented from the shareholder a luxury property in Shenzhen (just across the border from Hong Kong in mainland China) at well below market price—during a time when his cabinet was also approving license applications for the company. Another allegation is that Tsang failed to notify authorities that an architect he nominated for a city award had also been hired to work on the Shenzhen property.

Tsang left the court on bail after confirming that he understood the charges against him, and was ordered to return next month. Both charges carry a maximum jail term of seven years.

The investigation into Tsang began in 2012, while he was still in power, and the former leader says he has “assisted fully” with the investigations over the past three and a half years. “My conscience is clear,” he said in a statement ahead of his court appearance.

Tsang’s arrest is the second high-profile move against corruption in Hong Kong in recent years. In December last year Rafael Hui Si-yan, a former number-two in Tsang’s government, was jailed for seven and a half years for accepting bribes from a property tycoon. He was ordered to repay the HK$11.2 million ($1.5 million) sum that he was found guilty of accepting.