It was my wife's idea, says Tang
Chief executive hopeful Henry Tang Ying-yen last night apologised for the controversy surrounding the illegal structures at his wife's property, which he said were her idea, but vowed to continue his campaign for the top job.
However, increasingly nervous Election Committee members contacted by the Post said they are considering withdrawing their support.
Meanwhile, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, chairwoman of the New People's Party, said she might join the race.
With wife Lisa Kuo Yu-chin by his side holding back tears, Tang said: 'No 7 [York Road] is my wife's property. It was my wife's idea and I knew they were illegal. Since we were experiencing a low ebb in our marriage, I did not handle the matter swiftly. I take full responsibility for the incident.' Tang co-owned the house until 2010.
Stony-faced, Tang apologised to the people of Hong Kong and asked for a second chance from supporters who doubt his integrity. But the disclosure may leave Kuo, who admitted masterminding what many are calling an 'underground palace', facing criminal charges over the illegal works.
Building officers yesterday inspected the couple's two Kowloon Tong properties and found a 2,000 sq ft basement at No 7, which was not shown in the approved building plan. But they did not say whether the basement contained a wine cellar, wine tasting room and a theatre, as has been widely reported.
Tang denied he had lied in the scandal. 'There were inner struggles in my heart. On the one hand I wanted to give the full picture, but on the other hand I did not want to implicate my wife,' he said.
China-watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said: 'Tang's scandal has put Beijing in a very difficult situation. If Tang chooses to quit, Beijing must consider how big business, which backs Tang, could adjust its relationship with Leung Chun-ying if he is elected.' Guo Li, deputy director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, said voters would have to judge whether Hong Kong's governance would be affected if Tang pressed ahead in the race. She also said integrity was a vital trait for most people.
Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin said: 'He had said [earlier] a man needs to have broad shoulders, but his action to realise this - putting the blame on his wife - was unbearable,' said Wong, whose FTU has 57 nominating votes.
'Day after day he has offered different accounts,' said Liberal Party chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee. 'This one response is unreliable - he still refused to disclose the size of the illegal structure.' She has said the party was considering withdrawing the 62 nominations it gave to Tang earlier this month.
Ho Hon-kuen, chairman of Education Convergence, which holds three tickets, said it was now impossible to nominate Tang.
But a core Tang supporter, Thomas Woo Chu, who led a team that won all 17 seats in the catering sector for Tang, said it was worth offering him a second chance.
'We should not impose the death penalty on him simply because of one single incident,' Woo said.
Former civil service minister Joseph Wong Wing-ping said: '[Tang's] political crisis is far from over. Although he's vowed to continue his campaign, I believe the likelihood of him eventually withdrawing from the race is still high.'
Regina Ip said: 'I have had a lot of calls urging Tang to withdraw from the race - and I think he should.'