No case without proof of deception
Buildings officials will only initiate a criminal investigation into chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying if there is evidence suggesting someone built and then purposefully concealed the illegal structures at his home on The Peak.
The Legislative Council's development panel yesterday grilled the permanent secretary for development, Thomas Chow Tat-ming, about the issue.
Chow said that while the Buildings Department's most important task was to inspect Leung's homes - just as it had done in previous cases involving senior government officials and celebrities - priority would not be given when it came to enforcement proceedings against these high-profile people.
'When it comes to enforcement, the arrangement is the same for all illegal structure cases,' said Chow.
Department officers, who acted on media reports of an illegally built trellis, identified six illegal structures last week at Leung's two houses at Peel Rise on The Peak. Leung said four of the six structures, including a basement underneath a car park, existed before he moved in, while he was not aware that the trellis and a glass canopy he erected were illegal.
A group of university professors and students will hold a press conference at Leung's house today to present a petition of 800 signatures, urging him to stop removing the illegal structures to facilitate future investigations.
Members of the development panel called on the government to launch an inquiry to find out who had built the illegal structures.
They said they had become even more sceptical about the case after aerial photos that came to light on Wednesday revealed that contrary to Leung's earlier assertions, the wooden trellis had not existed before he moved in.
Panel members referred to the case of Leung's former rival to the post of chief executive, Henry Tang Ying-yen, and his wife. The couple are being investigated over whether they built an illegal basement at their Kowloon Tong house and concealed it from buildings officers during a site visit.
Buildings Department director Au Choi-kai said the cases regarding Leung and Tang were different because in the latter case, evidence had been more obvious, with witnesses, drawings and photos suggesting contractors and architects might have concealed a plan to build the basement.
Democrat Lee Wing-tat urged Au to investigate Leung's case before drawing any conclusions.
Au replied: 'All illegal structures are built by people. They do not grow out of nothing. Unless there is evidence ... we cannot investigate every case, otherwise we won't have time for other work.'
Pressed further, Au did not completely rule out an investigation. 'At this stage, I cannot say certainly whether or not we will do it.'
The department later added that it did not find any more illegal structures at Leung's houses, including an alleged second basement.
Meanwhile, Avery Ng Man-yuen, vice-chairman of the League of Social Democrats, said he made a statement to the Independent Commission Against Corruption yesterday and was told that the graft-buster had launched in investigation into allegations that Leung had made a false or misleading statement about the illegal structures.
Delegates from the league and the Democratic Party went to ICAC headquarters in North Point last Friday to lodge a complaint.