Neighbours ‘dragged into’ illegal structures scandal of Hong Kong justice chief Teresa Cheng
Adjacent houses at her Tuen Mun home have had alterations removed since the news broke, while other residents may have also been served notices
Neighbours of Hong Kong’s beleaguered justice minister said on Tuesday they had become collateral damage after being “dragged into” the scandal over illegal structures in her home.
Photos taken by the Post show that two houses next to the property owned by Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah in the Villa De Mer estate in Tuen Mun have undergone a number of changes since news of her home broke earlier this month.
On January 9, just days after the media revelations, two rooftop glass canopies and enclosed balconies were still intact in the neighbouring houses. But photos from two weeks later, taken on Tuesday, show that the structures have already been taken down.
A woman, who claimed to live on Lok Chui Street – where Cheng also lives – called a radio programme to complain.
“She really dragged us into trouble ever since she became a minister,” the woman said.
“Because of her, every family on the street got a letter [over illegal structures] from the government.”
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The woman said many properties on the street had alterations. She estimated that each family would have to shell out about HK$2 million to remove the fixtures.
Workers began dismantling illegal structures at Cheng’s home on Tuesday after the Buildings Department announced that it had approved a plan to remove three of the features within two months.
As for the fourth structure – a basement – the department said it would first need more information from Cheng’s representatives.
Separately, in the afternoon, officials from the department inspected Cheng’s other property at Sea Cliff Mansions in Repulse Bay, after the government issued an earlier statement saying the home had three unregistered structures.
The department did not reveal if the alterations were illegal, or if it had discovered more structures during the inspection.
Cheng said they already existed when she bought the flat last September for HK$62 million.
One of Cheng’s neighbours at Sea Cliff Mansions, who only wanted to be identified by her surname, Lo, said she “has had enough” of illegal structures at the estate.
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“I can’t take it any more. There are others who have even more serious illegal works in their flats. The Buildings Department should get them too, not just Cheng,” Lo said.
According to on-site observations by the Post, other flats in the same building have alterations that include enclosed balconies, enlarged windows and glass panels in place of balcony railings.
The Post also spoke to several residents in housing estates near Cheng’s Tuen Mun home. All of them spoke on condition of anonymity.
One owner of a house in King’s Park Villa said the Buildings Department inspected properties in the area every one or two years, and many residents in the neighbourhood had received orders to remove their illegal structures before.
He said he believed Cheng did not make the situation worse.
“But she should have had the common sense to remove her illegal structures or sell the house after she agreed to take the job,” he said.
Another resident from The Castle Bay in Tuen Mun said he removed his rooftop glass structure about two years ago after a government inspection.
He said many property owners would take down their structures after receiving notices, but these might be reinstalled later.