Officials take action over illegal flats sublet by wife of Hong Kong minister

Officials issue removal orders for unauthorised work in subdivided premises that were sublet by the wife of the development minister

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2012, 3:24am

The Buildings Department has issued removal orders over two illegal flats subleased by the wife of Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po.

The orders, issued last Friday, say unauthorised building works have been identified in the two premises in Tai Kok Tsui and Yau Ma Tei. The owners have to rectify the irregularities within 60 days in accordance with the Buildings Ordinance.

One of the rooms in the subdivided flat in Tai Kok Tsui is on a cantilevered slab balcony. Partitions subdividing the room and a thickened floor slab have caused overloading of the cantilevered slab.

The partitioned flat in Yau Ma Tei has a metal gate at the front staircase that blocks a means of escape in case of emergency.

The department says the two irregularities are "actionable items" subject to priority enforcement.

Chan said yesterday that lawyers employed by Harvest Charm Development were now working on restoring the two flats on or before September 2 and they would fix the irregularities once the flats were taken back.

Chief executive Leung Chun-ying yesterday reaffirmed support for Chan. The minister has been under pressure to step down after the scandal came to light. He had backtracked on earlier statements that he knew nothing about the illegally subdivided flats.

When asked whether Chan should make a further public explanation, Leung said: "I think he has already explained a lot."

The main tenant, Wu Ho-yin, said people affected by the clearance were reluctant to move out because they could not afford other subdivided flats on the market.

"I proposed compensating them with one month's rent, but they said they wouldn't move even if I gave them six months' rent," he said. "All they want is a new home to settle down in."

Wu said he sought help from social workers but no one managed to provide help to the tenants. "The social workers only asked them to move into a temporary shelter."

Eight households are involved in the two flats subject to the removal orders. One of the tenants is mentally disabled.

Sze Lai-shan, from the Society for Community Organisation, who is following up on the cases, urged the government to resettle the tenants. "There are countless subdivided units in Hong Kong," Sze said. "Tenants are forced to move out because of public pressure on the development chief. It's unfair to them."