Leung Chun-ying

Illegal structures a pointless distraction

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2012, 2:14am

The media and our politicians are having a field day on the matter of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's so-called illegal structures.

The issue is being blown out of all proportion and governance in Hong Kong is suffering as a result. I usually appreciate Albert Cheng's comments, but in his column ("We deserve nothing less than the whole truth on Leung's illegal structures", November 30), he is jumping on the bandwagon in an extreme bid to make a mountain out of a molehill. I venture that over 90 per cent of all properties in Hong Kong have unauthorised building works.

The Buildings Department is responsible for opening this can of worms; now more like a can of cobras. The law has given the department considerable discretion, and over a long period it has tolerated unauthorised works. If this is not the case, then the department is guilty of severe negligence because it never attempted to enforce the Buildings Ordinance, until around 2007, when the Development Bureau under Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor got involved.

In modern times, Hong Kong has constantly had pressure for adequate housing.

Circumstances have forced people to make property amendments to create more sleeping space for families, for example, by boxing in balconies and constructing internal walls. The Buildings Department was in full knowledge that the cost of going through the "proper" processes is prohibitive, and for years it has turned a blind eye.

It has been a huge shock to the building profession and property owners that the department is now attempting to scrutinise past works with zero tolerance and deeming everything that is not on the original blueprint "illegal".

It is normal that, if laws are not enforced, society will progressively ignore them, and this is exactly what has happened with the ordinance.

Why have the media and popular politicians not taken these bureaucrats to task for their laxity? I guess because they are enjoying trying to embarrass our senior officials. Public safety was supposed to be the criteria for addressing unauthorised building works, and I cannot see that C.Y. Leung's additions present the slightest threat to any member of the public.

Hong Kong urgently needs to address the real issues of developer hegemony, poverty, the wealth gap, outmoded land policy, massive overspending on unnecessary infrastructure, waste management and degraded environment. We do not have time to waste on Leung's minor works.

Charlie Chan, Mid-Levels