Chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying apologised for having an illegal structure at his house on The Peak that he hastily demolished following a press inquiry.
On Wednesday afternoon, Leung dismantled a 100 sq ft glass enclosure in his garden after Ming Pao Daily sought clarification on Tuesday.
Leung won the city's top job in March after his rival Henry Tang Ying-yen lost Beijing's support as his popularity plummeted when an illegal 2,250 sq ft basement was found in Tang's home in Kowloon Tong.
Lawmakers have criticised Leung, saying he took down the canopy to avoid a probe by the Buildings Department. They also cast doubt on Leung's integrity because he had claimed last year that there was no illegal structure at his house after consulting 'authorised people'.
But Leung yesterday admitted that the glass enclosure 'was not in total compliance with the building regulations'. But he said he did not intend to breach the law and had made no attempt to hide the canopy from the public.
Indeed, many reporters had visited his house and had taken pictures with the glass canopy in the background, Leung said.
The chief executive-elect said he would invite 'authorised people' to inspect his house again as soon as possible.
His spokeswoman said last night that Leung had confirmed with these people that he did not need approval from the Buildings Department before tearing down the glass canopy.
Development Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, widely tipped to be Leung's chief secretary, said the department had a preliminary confirmation that the canopy was illegal after an inspection yesterday.
Lam said an owner would not usually be prosecuted if the illegal structure in question was already demolished. However, the Buildings Department would decide on possible actions after compiling the evidence.
In response to Ming Pao Daily's inquiry, Leung's office said he had replaced a wooden garden shed with the glass enclosure 'a few years ago'. They admitted that he did not submit the renovation plan for official approval. On his part, Leung yesterday said he did not know the work would require approval because it was not a sealed glass canopy.
Meanwhile, Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat, chairman of the Legislative Council's housing panel, has cast doubts on Leung's integrity. 'As a professional surveyor, Leung should know that it doesn't matter whether the structure is sealed or not,' Lee said.
Lee said Leung should have known that his house used nearly the entire plot ratio - the total permitted floor area - and that it would be illegal to build additional structures.
Last year Leung said he had consulted two 'authorised persons' to confirm that there was no illegal structure at his house when he moved into the property in 2000.
Lee has urged Leung to release the inspection report.
Patrick Lau Sau-shing, chairman of Legco's development panel, said the panel might discuss the matter next week.
Building surveyor Vincent Ho Kui-yip said building contractors would be careful in complying with regulations when they build structures with a cover. But it would be hard to tell whether Leung had known about such regulations when he was a property surveyor, Ho said.