Henry Tang puts department against wall
Failed chief executive candidate sunk by illegal structures opens can of worms when he asks to deal with unlawful basement just like Leung did
Tony Cheung and Olga Wong
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Failed chief executive candidate Henry Tang Ying-yen handed the Buildings Department a tricky dilemma yesterday when he asked them to approve his proposal to seal his unauthorised basement with a brick wall - just as his rival Leung Chun-ying had done.
The removal of illegal building works is normally subject to a process involving structural engineers and architects before a decision is made by the Buildings Department on the best way to deal with it.
The discovery of the 2,250 sq ft basement at Tang's home last February sank his campaign. Four months later, when Leung had won the election, it was discovered the new chief executive had built a wall to "remove" a 320 sq ft illegal basement at his own home months earlier.
Ten months after losing out to Leung for the city's top job, Tang broke his silence on Thursday about the scandal, saying it was laughable for Leung to attack him for having an illegal basement at his home when he also had unauthorised installations.
Tang confirmed in a statement yesterday that he had submitted a proposal to simply brick off the basement to the Buildings Department, which is conducting a criminal investigation into illegal structures at his Kowloon Tong home. However, one of his close allies, lawmaker Lam Tai-fai criticised him for opening a can of worms for the government and the chief executive.
He added the proposal was not correct procedure. "I cannot agree with it," Lam said. "Many people and professionals would not find it acceptable either."
Liberal Party lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun, who nominated Tang in the chief executive poll, believed the Buildings Department would not be able to approve the proposal. He dismissed speculation Tang had been anxious to end the criminal inquiry in order to boost his chances of being appointed to the standing committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. "I don't think Tang is very keen on the job," Tien said.
In Tang's statement, he reiterated that he had no plans to re-enter politics. He also complained he had "only learned that the Buildings Department has completed their [on-site] investigation" in a public statement issued on Thursday. Tang said he "wished it would notify the concerned parties first before issuing public statements". Tang added: "It is [the department's] duty as well as common courtesy."
The department's spokeswoman declined to comment yesterday on how long the criminal inquiry would last.