Leung pleads for more time as photos cast doubt on earlier explanation
Olga Wong, Peter So and Thomas Chan
Embattled chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying struggled to address public concerns over his integrity in the controversy over illegal structures at his home as another newspaper report cast further doubts.
Peppered with questions about photographs that appeared to show - contrary to his earlier assertions - that an illegal glass-covered frame did not exist at his property on The Peak when he moved into it in 2000, the incoming chief executive pleaded for time to check on it.
'I have never denied that the glass frame was built by me,' Leung said. 'I knew I had to remove the frame when it was found to be illegal. I didn't say the glass frame was not illegal.'
His woes deepened when the Democratic Party said it would go ahead with proposed legal challenges to his election and there was a fresh call for him to resign if he was found to have lied.
Ming Pao Daily yesterday published three aerial photographs which it said were taken by the Lands Department, one a month before Leung bought the property and two others three months and 15 months after he moved in. The report said no frame could be identified in the first two photos while a white structure was seen in the last.
Leung said earlier that he had replaced a wooden frame left by the previous owner when he found it had been weakened by termites.
'I bought the house in 1999 and moved into it in 2000,' he said yesterday. 'It's 12 years ago. I hope I will be given time to check.'
Leung meanwhile released a statement by two engineers, an architect and a surveyor on a 240 sq ft illegal basement found underneath the property's parking space by the Buildings Department last Friday.
'What [the professionals] said is in fact common sense and it is what I wanted to show the public in a media visit arranged to my house,' he said.
The four said they believed Leung did not build the basement.
'It would be difficult and dangerous to build an entrance in a structural wall with a thickness of 200mm,' they said, adding that a fuse box and switchboard found in the area indicated it was originally designed as a main switch room for the two houses on the property and the garden.
Also, the tiles used to decorate the entrance were the same as the external wall of the parking space.
'I told the public through the media that I did not create this space,' Leung said. 'But I bear the responsibility for overlooking the fact that as it turns out ... it was an illegal structure.'
Responding to another report by Apple Daily, which accused him of taking for his own use a swimming pool, communal garden, deck and a portion of access road inside the estate where he lives, Leung said his lawyer would prove this wrong in a statement that would be released tomorrow.
Democratic Party leader Albert Ho Chun-yan said the party had already decided to go ahead with filing an election petition and a judicial review, on or before July 3, as they suspected Leung had made false statements during the campaign when he claimed there were no illegal structures at his home.
'We wrote to Leung to request a clear explanation but he didn't reply,' Ho said.
Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat said Leung should resign if the media coverage on his integrity was accurate.
'The public won't accept a chief executive who lied,' he said.
But veteran engineer Greg Wong Chak-yan said the illegal frame that was the subject of the Ming Pao report might have existed without showing up in the photographs.
'It only takes a few days to build or to remove a frame,' he said. 'There's still a possibility that the frame existed but it wasn't caught in the department's photos.'
Vincent Ho Kui-yip, an experienced building surveyor, said that the resolution of the three photographs was low.
'I can't even tell if there's really a frame in the pictures.'