Leung Chun-ying's former campaign manager acknowledged yesterday that the chief executive 'may have remembered incorrectly' details about the illegal garden trellis at his luxury home on The Peak.
But Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, who is now a member of the Executive Council, says such mistakes should not damage Leung's integrity.
Cheung said the chief executive would soon provide a full explanation for what have been seen as inconsistencies in his explanations about the six unauthorised structures at his home, including the trellis.
'As it turns out, he may have remembered incorrectly,' Cheung said. 'But he didn't use it as an excuse. One should not jump to the conclusion that he has integrity problems.'
Cheung's comments were echoed yesterday by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, suggesting that the fledgling administration may hope that admitting a mistake could help it move beyond the early controversy.
In response to a reporter's question about Leung's integrity, Lam said, 'one's memory may differ from time to time'.
Last month, Leung admitted that he built one of the two trellises identified by the Buildings Department at his HK$500 million house on Peel Rise.
He said he built the second trellis, but only to replace an old one left by the previous owner, which makes the second trellis a lesser issue.
That story, however, was called into question after Ming Pao reported that aerial photos taken of the house by the Lands Department before Leung moved in showed no trellises.
'It is clearly negligence,' Cheung said. 'He admitted from the beginning that the trellis was built by him. He has already taken the responsibility.'
He added that if Leung knew the trellis was illegal, he would not have accepted so many interviews at the house over the years, including a recent one with Time magazine.
'I believe people without bias will accept his explanation when he gives the details,' Cheung said. Questions about the illegal structures have dogged Leung in the lead-up to him taking over as chief executive. A similar scandal involving an illegal basement was widely seen as ending the election bid of Leung's leading opponent, Henry Tang Ying-yen.
In her interview, Lam urged the public not question Leung's integrity too quickly.