Michael Suen under fire for illegal extensions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 May, 2011, 12:00am


Michael Suen Ming-yeung might have pledged in 2006 to combat illegal structures but when he received a notice in the same year to remove one from his own home he ignored it.

The education chief, who was then in charge of housing, admitted yesterday that he should have acted more quickly on the notice he received five years ago from the Buildings Department ordering him to remove the structure within two months.

'I should have been more proactive and acted earlier to deal with this problem. Especially as I was the secretary for housing, planning and lands, I should have set a good example and handled the illegal structures at once even though they posed no immediate danger,' he said.

He did not respond to questions on whether he would resign but said he would order a registered contractor to remove the structure today.

Suen was speaking after a magazine disclosed that two rooms of his Happy Valley home had been widened outside the wall of the ground floor. He is the latest in a series of government and political figures to be exposed as having illegal structures on their homes.

Suen, who said in 2006 he would improve staffing to combat illegal structures, said the extensions already existed when he bought his house in 1994 and he did not know they were illegal. He used the space to store miscellaneous items and a washing machine.

He received the Buildings Department's notice in April 2006 but did nothing. 'Since the area occupied is very small, I took no action,' he said.

The department registered the order in the land record after two months.

A department spokeswoman said it would send staff to inspect the illegal structure again and take action according to the present policy.

The issue of illegal building structures drew public attention after the ombudsman found last month that the government had 'double standards' in taking enforcement action against such structures in urban buildings and village houses.

Officials were found to be more tolerant when it came to village houses.

The government has recently been pressured to deal with illegal structures after more than 10 public figures, including government officials and lawmakers from across the political spectrum, were found with unauthorised additions to their homes.

These included undersecretary for the environment Dr Kitty Poon Kit, Heung Yee Kuk vice-chairman Cheung Hok-ming, Chan Kam-lam and Wong Yung-kan of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the Civic Party's Ronny Tong Ka-wah and the Democratic Party's Wong Sing-chi.