Leung Chun-ying

Follow the paper trail in 'basementgate'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 June, 2012, 12:00am


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What did he know and when did he know it? This question was hurled at US president Richard Nixon when he tried to cover up the Watergate scandal.

The decades-old question has found new life in Hong Kong. Henry Tang Ying-yen was bombarded with it when his 'basementgate' scandal broke. The scandal sank his run for chief executive.

To be fair, we must now throw the question at incoming chief executive Leung Chun-ying. What did he know and when did he know about his 'basementgate'? Did he know during the election campaign when Tang was being sucked into his own 'basementgate' cesspool?

Leung insists he had no clue about the six illegal structures at his home on The Peak and found out only when building inspectors confirmed media reports.

On the face of it, Leung's plea of innocence seems credible. He didn't hide the structures and was actually sprucing up the basement for his police bodyguard. But glaring questions remain unanswered. Why didn't he make sure his own house was clean when Tang's scandal broke? Surely that was a no-brainer. Did he cover up his own cesspool so he could hold on to his election lead, while he watched Tang drown?

He insists the structures were there when he bought the house. But the public needs proof. He says experts he sought advice from gave his house the all-clear. Who are these experts, and how could they have missed things that government inspectors discovered in just hours?

When he bought the house, he signed documents freeing the seller of any responsibility for illegal structures. Why? A paper trail must exist that leads to the truth. Follow the paper trail - that's the advice to those wanting to get to the bottom of this.

This is an edited version of an opinion piece by Michael Chugani, published in the South China Morning Post on June 27, 2012