A wealth of evidence in Tang's basement
The 'basementgate' scandal involving chief executive hopeful Henry Tang Ying-yen has intrigued many engineers, and readers of this column with such a background have been offering tips for investigating the huge, illegal basement built under the house owned by Tang's wife in Kowloon Tong.
The key question is: was the basement built before or after an occupancy permit was issued in 2007? If it was afterwards, it is just another illegal structure. But if it was built before it would be a criminal act, involving the submission of a fraudulent building plan that did not include the basement.
The physical evidence is all there - in the basement. Tang, ever so helpfully, has offered to 'rectify' the problem by pouring concrete into the basement and filling up the hole.
My guess is that the government would be more than happy to let him do it, as it can then claim to have removed the offending structure. And in the public rush for justice, we may well let the Tangs do it, as it will cost them a pretty penny. But that would destroy all the evidence.
As a reader-engineer puts it: 'To a 'forensic' building engineer, the structure of the basement - the materials used, how they are composed and interconnected, the order of construction relating to upper- and lower-level works - all would clearly tell the chronological story of the house and cellar construction. But if the cellar is filled with concrete, all this hard material evidence would be lost forever.'
Another engineer-reader offers this advice: 'It is a straightforward matter to determine the age of the structural material in the basement through chemical analysis. The work record of the engineering and architectural firms that constructed the building and the basement would also present evidence on the point in time that the basement was constructed.'
Don't let the Tangs get away with it.