Chief executive 'ignored' pleas by Buildings Department
Leung ignores requests for information, as his claim to lack experience in illegal structures is called into doubt by controversy 12 years ago
Olga Wong and Joshua But
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has ignored four requests from the Buildings Department for information about a brick wall he built to seal up an unauthorised extension in one of his houses on The Peak, despite his claims that he has been helpful to the investigation.
Leung's contention on Monday that he lacked experience in handling illegal structures was also called into question after a press release issued by the department 12 years ago proved that he had demolished an unauthorised glass corridor at his former house in Stanley.
The controversy deepened when the department said in a press release yesterday it had asked him and his "authorised person" in June for information about an external wall of a store room found on the lower ground floor, including details of the construction and why it was built. The department said the inspection - which followed a media report of an unauthorised servant's room on the same floor - did not find any servant's room.
But its officers saw that the position of the external wall did not match the original building plan.
After the first letter on June 27, the department sent Leung three reminders but received no information. Officers did not make a further inspection until Monday.
Leung, under pressure to open up the wall for further inspection yesterday, said the legal challenge to his election put forward by lawmakers in July had prevented him from working with the department. "I immediately contacted the department after the legal proceedings," he said. Asked about the conflict between his claim of lack of experience and the removal of the structure at his Stanley home in 2000 when he was Executive Council convenor, he said he would have to check records.
The South China Morning Post reported in December 2000 that Leung had agreed to remove the structure and the department said later he had done so.
The release of the investigation details yesterday was seen as a response to media claims that the department's senior management had stopped a frontline officer following up on a "suspicious" wall.
The wall - first mentioned by Leung in a 14-page statement last Friday aimed at clearing up the controversy - was used to seal an unauthorised 200 sq ft space built by the previous owner.
Leung, who had denied a media report that he had an illegal servant's room in June, said he had already spotted and dealt with the "problem" in October and November last year.
Leung responded on Monday that he thought the unauthorised area would no longer exist after the wall was built, adding that it was the first time he had dealt with illegal structures.
But according to the release issued by the department in January 2001, Leung removed a glass corridor between the garden and the Stanley house in 2000.
Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said Leung should not use the lawmakers' legal challenge as an excuse, as the judicial review did not involve a criminal offence and Leung did not have the right to remain silent.
He also questioned why the department had not stepped up inspections earlier.
Executive councillors Cheung Chi-kong and Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun called yesterday for an end to the controversy, while the Democratic Party changed the target of a planned motion of no confidence on December 12 from executive councillor Franklin Lam Fan-keung to Leung.
Timeline of Leung Chun-ying's 'illegal structures' case
May 2011 Leung Chun-ying tells reporters he has no illegal structures at his home.
October He realises that a 200 sq ft room extension in his 4 Peel Rise house is unauthorised.
November He demolishes structures and seals up extension with brick wall.
November 27 He declares his bid for chief executive.
March 16, 2012 Leung criticises rival Henry Tang Ying-yen for covering up an unauthorised basement at home.
June 25 Apple Daily asks Leung's office if he has unauthorised room at home. Office says no.
June 26-27 Department inspects site, finds wall of a store room does not match building plan, writes to Leung and person authorised by him about it and why it was built.
June-November Department reminds authorised person thrice to submit information.
July 4 Lawmakers launch judicial review against "false claim" made in election campaign that Leung had no illegal structures.
November 13 Court of Final Appeal rejects lawmakers' appeal.
November 19 Legal challenge withdrawn.
November 23 Leung makes public an unauthorised 200 sq ft room, already sealed up.
November 26-27 Department inspects room again, requests Leung to demolish wall as soon as possible for further inspection.