Leung 'set trap by not checking trellis facts'
Leung Chun-ying 'set a trap for himself' last month by failing to confirm the facts before speaking to the media about illegal structures at his Peak houses, the chief executive's former transition chief said yesterday.
Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun told the South China Morning Post Leung needed to reflect on his inconsistent statements about a pair of garden trellises at the HK$500 million houses on Peel Rise and take steps to restore confidence in the government.
'Leung remembered incorrectly that the illegal trellis at his house was built by the previous owner,' said Law, who led Leung's transition office. 'He made the remarks to the media before double-checking relevant records. His indiscreet handling of the incident effectively set a trap for himself.'
Law was referring to Leung's contention to reporters that he installed only one of the two illegal trellises found at his properties by inspectors from the Buildings Department. He said the second one was built to replace one installed by the previous owner, which would make it a lesser issue. However, Leung's explanation was called into question when newspaper Ming Pao reported aerial photos taken of the houses by the Lands Department before Leung moved in showed no trellises. Law said she was told by Leung's wife, Regina Leung Tong Ching-yee, late last month that the trellis was in fact built by Leung's family after they moved into the luxury houses in 2000.
'Mrs Leung was in England when C.Y. told the media that the illegal trellis was built by the previous owner,' Law said.
But Law, who Leung appointed to the Executive Council, said she was inclined to believe that Leung was in his own mind certain that he did not have any illegal structures on his properties. She did not think the trellis row said anything negative about the chief executive's character.
'It's gross negligence, but not a matter of integrity.'
Her remarks echoed those of Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, Leung's former campaign manager, who acknowledged last week that the chief executive 'may have remembered incorrectly' details about the trellis. Cheung called it 'clear negligence'.
Leung is expected to give a more detailed explanation at a question-and-answer session in the Legislative Council on Monday.
Law admitted that Leung's administration was facing big problems after a string of scandals and embarrassments immediately before and after taking office. But she did not think he should resort to 'populist measures, such as granting a cash handout to win public support'.
The executive councillor said she supported Leung's decision to make district visits, even though some have been disrupted by protests. But she said future meet-the-public sessions should be more focused.
'The previous sessions sounded like free-for-all meetings without specific themes. It would be more productive if the chief executive and ministers bring particular questions to districts they are going to visit. For instance, they should concentrate on problems related to landfills when they visit Tseung Kwan O.'
On his second day in office, Leung was forced to abandon a town hall meeting in Tuen Mun and flee under heavy police escort after activists stormed the event. The chief executive and his ministers had earlier that day visited five other districts and faced questions on issues ranging from housing to dog mess.
Leung and his ministers staged a second round of visits on Sunday. Another is planned for tomorrow.
The amount, in HK dollars, that Leung Chun-ying paid for two houses in Peel Rise in 1999