New World Development

Former housing chief in fresh controversy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 April, 2011, 12:00am


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Ex-housing chief Leung Chin-man, whose post-retirement job with a subsidiary of property giant New World Development caused a public outcry three years ago, is working for Chow Tai Fook Enterprises - a major shareholder in the developer.

A senior executive of New World Development yesterday confirmed that Leung had been offering consultancy services for Chow Tai Fook's property business on the mainland through his own company for the last month.

Chow Tai Fook's businesses span the retail, property and hotel sectors in Hong Kong and the mainland. It is owned by Cheng Yu-tung, chairman of New World Development.

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum have expressed anger at Leung's work for Chow Tai Fook, saying it will renew public suspicion of collusion between the government and the business sector.

Leung triggered criticism over a possible conflict of interest when he became executive director and vice-chairman of New World China Land, the mainland subsidiary of New World Development, in August 2008.

As housing chief in 2004, Leung played a key role in the government's sale of Hung Hom Peninsula, a never-occupied, subsidised housing estate, for barely half the asking price to a consortium that included a sister company of New World Development. He worked for the developer for only two weeks, and stepped down hours after Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen ordered a review of the Civil Service Bureau's decision to approve his new job.

A Legislative Council select committee investigation concluded in December that it was inappropriate for Leung to have taken the job, and criticised him for deliberately hiding facts in his application to the government for permission to join the firm.

Secretary for the Civil Service Denise Yue Chung-yee, who the committee found had committed a 'grave error' in the case, promised to review regulations on jobs for retired civil servants, taking into consideration recommendations made by the select committee and by a government-appointed review committee. The government has yet to announce the results of review.

Chow Tai Fook did not reply to the Post's requests for comment.

Lawmaker Li Fung-ying, who chaired the Legco select committee which investigated the Leung controversy last year, said: 'It is unavoidable that many members of the public will feel they have been slapped in the face.

'The government should conduct a thorough assessment on whether his work for Chow Tai Fook would cause any embarrassment to the administration. Leung is still paid a pension every month,' she said.

A spokesman for the Civil Service Bureau said the control period for Leung had expired in January 2010. He therefore 'does not have to apply to the government for approval prior to taking up employment'.

Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen refused to comment on the case.

Pan-democrats will discuss the issue today and say they will issue a petition seeking government action.