Structures row spreads to judiciary
The scandal over illegal structures has widened to the judiciary.
Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li has reprimanded a deputy judge who ignored the government's warning to remove an unapproved extension to her house for at least three years. Merinda Chow Yin-chu had undermined public confidence in the city's justice, Ma said.
'Judges must display integrity, propriety and observe the highest standards in all matters of conduct, both in and out of court,' Ma told Chow in a meeting on Thursday. '[She] should not have made the mistake of not taking the necessary action as required by the Lands Department. Such a mistake adversely affects public confidence in the administration of justice.'
Meanwhile, Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was reportedly preparing to negotiate with leaders of rural authority the Heung Yee Kuk on Monday on ways to 'rationalise' illegal structures in New Territories village houses.
And more cases emerged of apparently unauthorised additions to houses - this time involving celebrity horse trainer Tony Cruz and actor Nicholas Tse Ting-fung.
Chow ignored a removal notice issued by the Lands Department in 2008 after it received a public complaint. The department found Chow had built an unauthorised extension to one of her houses in Sai Kung, according to a department letter obtained by the South China Morning Post. The department did not take immediate lease-enforcement action against Chow's house but advised her to remove the structure.
A site visit by the Post this week found that the extension of more than 300 square feet on the ground floor was still there, but workers had been hired to demolish concrete structures on the roof.
Another house owned by Chow in the same village has a rooftop glasshouse and enclosed balcony, both apparently unauthorised, according to an experienced surveyor.
Chow, currently a deputy district judge on a temporary basis, did not reply to questions.
A spokeswoman for the judiciary said the chief justice looked into Chow's case after receiving an inquiry from the Post. Meeting Chow on Thursday, Ma said Chow had erred and apologised deeply for it, the spokeswoman said.
But the spokeswoman said the judiciary would be taking no further action in the matter as Chow said she had begun taking action to remove the structures last week.
Top government officials - including Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen - have been accused of having illegal extensions at their properties.