By Venus Wu
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang, the highest-ranking ex-official to be charged in the city's history, was jailed for 20 months on Wednesday for misconduct in public office.
The sentence brings to an ignominious end what had been a long and stellar career for Tsang in the Asian financial hub before and after the 1997 handover to Chinese rule, and reaffirmed what some observers said was Hong Kong's strong rule of law in bringing even the most powerful to justice.
Tsang, famous for his bow ties, was escorted in handcuffs to the court from hospital where he'd been staying since Monday night after experiencing breathing difficulties and chest pains.
Scores of establishment Hong Kong figures including top former officials had wrote letters vouching for Tsang's good character and longstanding public service over four decades in a bid for mitigation ahead of sentencing.
The nine-person jury had earlier found Tsang guilty of a charge of misconduct in public office. He had deliberately concealed private rental negotiations with property tycoon Bill Wong Cho-bau while his cabinet discussed and approved a digital broadcasting license for a now defunct radio company, Wave Media, in which Wong was a major shareholder.
Tsang was acquitted of a second misconduct charge.
His conviction adds to a number of scandals ensnaring powerful officials that have marred the former British colony's reputation as a relatively corruption-free society.
Tsang's legal woes looked set to continue, however, with the court saying a retrial would be tentatively set for September for another bribery charge for which jurors failed to return a majority verdict.
(This story has been refiled to change day in first paragraph)
(Reporting by Venus Wu; Editing by James Pomfret and Nick Macfie)