CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Former chief executive shares his transformed life

HONG KONG (SE): “Being in prison enabled me to have time for meditation and learn to love all people, including enemies,” former chief executive of Hong Kong, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, said at a sharing session organised by the faith formation group of the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, held at Caritas Community Hall, Caine Road, on July 21. The 74-year-old Tsang was the city’s chief executive from 2005 to 2012.
Charged by the Independent Commission Against Corruption on two counts of misconduct in public office, he was subsequently convicted by a jury of one charge in February 2017 and sentenced to 20-months imprisonment. The sentence was later reduced to 12-months on appeal.
Tsang was discharged from the custodial ward at Queen Mary Hospital after finishing his jail term in January this year. On June 26, the Court of Final Appeal unanimously quashed his conviction and sentence, and said there would be no retrial. His vindication came only after he had served out his sentence. “My family and I are jubilant and deeply moved. We have suffered more than seven years because of this litigation,” Tsang said.
Tsang remembered the first two months of imprisonment in 2017  when he was confined to a cell in the small hospital in Stanley Prison due to asthma and severe coughing, and was only allowed to go out for 15 minutes to take a bath in the next cell every evening. “In those days, Church was my biggest source of support besides my family, which helped me to maintain a positive mind,” Tsang said.
In prison, he cherished the chance for a weekly jog on the rooftop so he could enjoy the sunlight. He recalled that he was troubled by insomnia and anxiety so he needed sleeping pills to calm him down every night. 
According to a report in the Kung Kao Po, Tsang recounted that he maintained his peace of mind by pacing to and fro in his prison cell over 1,000 times a day while praying the rosary.  He believes prayer helped detach him from mundane affairs so that he could become a real apostle of Jesus Christ.
Looking at the positive side, he believes prison transformed his life, affording him a chance to look at his gains and losses; the rights and wrongs of his decisions and gain a deeper understanding of human nature. 
“In Stanley Prison, although I was deprived of my physical freedom due to the prison rules, my spiritual horizons were broadened and my life was peaceful. I could feel the love of God, which paves the way for eternal life in heaven, so it was a valuable blessing. My experience may set an example for others as God is kind to all.”
Tsang said one way to attain peace of mind was to forgive those who framed him up and not to let hatred grow in his heart, as that is what God wants him to do. “Without forgiveness, I can never have the peace of Jesus. We must get close to Jesus Christ so that we can love ourselves and our neighbours,” he said.
He learned to share his worries, joy and pain in prison with God in prayer every night. And the habit made it possible for him to have real peace, adding that this was when he spent time in meditation.
He was impressed by the selfless and continuous encouragement from his family and members of the Church. He thanked the Jesuit priests of his alma mater, Wah Yan College, and his parish priest for offering Masses for him while he was in prison.
When asked about his feelings about his time as chief executive, he said a chief executive has to love all the people of Hong Kong, including those who hate them, which is the way to happiness. 
He recalled that a policy can be implemented if it has the support of 65 to 70 per cent of Hongkongers. But still he had to be aware that there would be oppositions from the remaining 30 per cent, or two million, which is also quite a big figure!
The South China Morning Post reported Tsang as saying, “Hong Kong will certainly get better. Of course, there will be some problem in the process (but) we need to have confidence.”
He continued, “I’m a Hong Kong boy. I believe in Hongkongers and love Hongkongers.”

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