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  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 1:18am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Best course is full disclosure in agricultural land row

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 3:51am

Perception is everything in politics, the maxim goes. Development Minister Paul Chan Mo-po should have learned that lesson after the first run-in he had with critics, but several more scraps and 11 months later, he is again struggling to convince that he is truthful. He has fronted the media several times and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has given his full backing, but questions remain about the land purchased by a company he was a shareholder of that has dramatically risen in value due to a major New Territories project he is overseeing. To quell the claims of collusion, he has to be as open and honest as possible.

It would have been better for Chan to have revealed all about the 20,000 square feet of agricultural land in Kwu Tung North when he took office last August. That is especially so given that it falls under plans for creation of a new town he is spear-heading. As a result of the redevelopment, the value of the plot has increased from HK$350,000 when purchased to an estimated HK$17 million, sparking allegations he will benefit financially from inside knowledge. He has said he told Leung of the property last September, that he is no longer a director of the company that held it and that his wife sold her shareholding in the firm to family members nine months ago. Yet some still believe he will in some way profit.

No laws or regulations have been broken. Chan followed the rules when he took office by declaring his assets. Long-standing calls that these requirements be broadened to include a spouse and other family members have understandably resurfaced and the matter is worthy of consideration. Our public officials have to have the highest integrity and every check has to be in place to ensure that they are capable of doing their job honestly.

But checks and declarations are not all that is required. Officials also have to be able to skilfully handle media scrutiny. Chan so far has done that poorly. Just days after taking office, he was embroiled in a media storm over the sub-dividing of flats he and his wife had owned. Then and now he inadequately explained his circumstances. Only by giving a full accounting of the land and the timeframe of events can he avoid the accusations of lies and greed that have come back to haunt him.

Property is a key investment. We cannot expect officials to divest holdings if there is likely to be a conflict of interest. But being open, honest and forthcoming is a requirement, especially for a development minister. Chan should come clean once and for all, rather than doling out the truth piecemeal.


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This article is now closed to comments

hard times !
step down or not, that
is the question
lingering in that well-paid
job is meaningless now
go and grab the awaiting
handsome profits of
that plot of farmland
purchased in 1994
at a price of 1.05 millions
only while now it is
valued at 17 millions !
a 17 times profit
a successful investiment
as an experienced chartered
accountant, your investment
both in subdivided flats and farmland
have been proved to be
highly successful.
yet your performances as an
official of accoutability has
failed miserably and
your final fate is sealed
go and thus save the
face and remaining prestige
of the Leung administration
which is struggling
to keep afloat
in the stormy sea
of Hong Kong waters !
Step down, Paul Chan
you have no way out
indeed !
Too late to come clean, the die is cast and trust broken. It is CY all over again, this guy may be the Ronaldo of agriculture and fisheries, but everyone will think he is match fixing and doping. The press will never leave him alone and people's work will go undone. Step down Mr Chan, your family still owns that land and you will profit handsomely -- which is all that seems to matter.
Cynical but very true. I wonder how much the value of the land held by 'family members' has risen since the sale to them ie late last year after he took office as Dev. Minister. Surely he is wrong to simply say its land bought 19 years ago when this misdeed of his is so current. Should the valuation of the land have increased by leaps and bounds ever since his family members including his son acquired it he should do the right thing and donate the 'excess' to charity. Otherwise my take is these are ill-gotten gains.


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