Pressure grows in C.Y. house scandal
Peter So and Dennis Chong
Hong Kong's chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying is facing growing pressure to disclose all the facts about illegal structures at his Peak home after a government official and his pro-Beijing allies warned his ability to govern is at stake.
Facing the media after a policy forum in Sai Ying Pun yesterday, Leung said: 'I don't want to get anyone else involved. I will take full responsibility. At the end of the day, I am the owner of the house and I will take responsibility - that is to clear the illegal structures starting on Monday.'
As calls mount for Leung to give a full explanation, health minister Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said it was vital he addressed the scandal.
'I am a bit disappointed. Politically speaking, it is a crisis,' Chow told a radio show. 'Now this may affect opinions regarding his integrity and raise doubts about his sincerity.'
However, Leung - due to be sworn in as Hong Kong's third chief executive in nine days' time - did not answer calls to explain why Buildings Department inspectors discovered illegal structures at his HK$500 million home on Peel Rise despite earlier claiming he had employed an 'authorised person' to confirm the property was clear of irregularities when he bought it in 2000.
Leung - a surveyor by profession - sidestepped media questions about calls for his resignation from pan-democrats, saying: 'I will do my job well.' He also avoided giving details of previous inspections, only confirming he had sought advice from legal and surveying professionals.
A total of six illegal structures - including a 240 sq ft basement that Leung said 'existed when I bought the property' - were found by the Buildings Department after two reports in Ming Pao Daily prompted scrutiny of Leung's property.
On Thursday and Friday Leung apologised, saying he had 'not intended' to install illegal structures. He promised to rectify the irregularities as soon as possible, but his responses failed to satisfy politicians.
Former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen - Leung's main opponent in the chief executive race - lost the contest in large part due to an illegal basement found at his home in Kowloon Tong. He is currently under investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Chan Yuen-han, of the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions, who voted for Leung in the election for the top job, called for a full explanation.
'Now there is a row that puts his integrity in serious doubt, he needs to make a full revelation. Otherwise, Hongkongers will find it unacceptable,' said Chan.
Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing told Commercial Radio that Leung looks to have displayed 'serious negligence', but did not believe he had tried a cover-up.
Pan-democratic parties staged protests at Leung's office in Central yesterday calling for his resignation.
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, the New People's Party chairwoman who is tipped to join Leung's Executive Council, said: 'Integrity matters the most for those running for public office, therefore the illegal structure row is a serious problem.'