Tang declares basement off limits

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 February, 2012, 12:00am


Embattled chief executive hopeful Henry Tang Ying-yen has rejected calls to allow the media to inspect his home's illegal basement, saying it would intrude on his privacy.

'An illegal structure is an illegal structure. It doesn't matter what the facilities inside are,' Tang told reporters yesterday. 'The public has the right to know whether the basement was an illegal structure, which I have admitted.

'And I have promised to rectify the problem and to take full responsibility,' he continued. 'I have considered the requests carefully and I came to a conclusion that [the basement facilities are] not part of the public's right to know. Therefore, I will not open it for media inspection or public sightseeing.'

An inspection by the Buildings Department on Thursday confirmed that there is a sizeable basement of at least 2,250 sq ft at the mansion at No7 York Road, Kowloon Tong. Tang's wife, Lisa Kuo Yu-chin, owns the property. The Buildings Department's surveyors declined to say what was in the basement.

Tang initially said on Monday that construction workers had 'dug a little bit deeper' underneath the mansion's garage and that the basement served as a 'storeroom'.

However, media reports suggested that the basement was as large as 2,400 sq ft and had luxurious facilities, such as a wine cellar, a wine- tasting room, a home theatre, a Japanese bath, a gym and a storeroom.

Tang denied the reports, but he also rejected calls from politicians and the media to allow the press to inspect the basement.

Despite being further pressed by the media on the matter yesterday, Tang said there were only miscellaneous items there, such as a boxing sandbag and a closet.

'There is no family theatre or Japanese bath,' Tang said. 'There is a sandbag, but not a gym room.'

He also appealed to the media not to besiege his home, as the presence of scores of journalists was disturbing his neighbours.

Tang has come under fierce media criticism for shifting the responsibility for the basement to his wife, when he said on Thursday night that it had been her idea to build it.

Tang explained he did not initially disclose the full details because he did not want his wife to be dragged into the controversy. His statement came after a long discussion with her.

'I expected I would be described [by the media] as 'hiding behind the woman again',' he said. 'But the statement [on Thursday] was my heartfelt feeling, which I have been struggling with deep in my heart in the past few days because I didn't want to be seen as hiding behind a woman. After reading the reports, I felt badly. I am a human being. I have feelings too. I simply hope the public will accept my apology.'