It was understandable people would question the credibility of development minister Paul Chan Mo-po, Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong said yesterday.
In a radio interview, Lam urged Chan to 'grasp the last chance' to clear his name in a row over subdivided flats owned by his wife's company and apparent contradictions in his subsequent explanations.
Chan should explain the matter in person as soon as possible.
Fellow Exco members Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun and Bernard Chan agreed Paul Chan should account for his actions, but Law declined to comment on whether Chan, who took office less than two weeks ago, was facing his final opportunity to clear up the doubts.
'It's up to the public to decide whether they trust him. But I agree there are doubts remaining,' Law said.
Bernard Chan said: 'He should meet the media and let the press ask whatever questions they have. The press will continue grilling him on the unanswered questions anyway, while the public will not focus on ... policy issues until the scandal is resolved.'
Paul Chan said last week that he had 'no knowledge' of illegally subdivided flats owned by Harvest Charm Development, which his wife controlled. But after media reports cited documents showing the couple might have known, Chan released a statement at midnight on Sunday admitting he knew that a flat in Tai Kok Tsui had been subleased when the company bought it in 1994. He claimed his previous statements referred only to the present situation at Tai Kok Tsui and another subdivided flat in Jordan. Chan quit the company's board in 1997, his wife quit last month.
Chan has not made any public appearances since Sunday. He had planned to fly to the United States yesterday to help his daughter settle in at university, but a spokesman said he was working yesterday and would be today.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying returned from holiday yesterday and repeated his call for people to listen to different views on the scandal - including the statements by Chan and his wife, Frieda Hui Po-min.
Leung said the media had not paid enough attention to Chan's promise to steer clear of investing in the property market during his tenure and Hui's pledge to sell her stake in Harvest Charm.
Industrial sector lawmaker Lam Tai-fai, who formed a loose alliance with Chan when the latter was a legislator, said that Chan should take unpaid leave until he cleared up the scandal.
Lam Woon-kwong, meanwhile, was asked whether it was reasonable for people to suspect that Chan was lying. 'It is reasonable,' he said.
'For Chan, this is possibly his last chance [to clarify the matter], and he should grasp it,' Lam said.
'Credibility is the basic requirement for those in public office. The public may give [scandal-hit public figures] one or two chances to clarify matters. If he still can't clear the doubts, the situation will be very difficult.'