Lau Wong-fat, the embattled executive councillor and Heung Yee Kuk chairman, pointed the finger at a middleman company yesterday after an illegal war game business was revealed to be operating on one of his rural sites in Yuen Long.
The case adds to the controversies facing Lau, who was found last month to have failed to report a series of property deals struck earlier this year under conflict of interest rules for executive councillors.
Yesterday lawmakers and his political rivals in the Kuk said the new revelation was another, inexcusable mistake, and called for his resignation.
The illegal business, reported in a newspaper yesterday, is in Pak Nai, Yuen Long, where he holds four of the seven lots on the site through Grand Gain Investment, of which he is a major shareholder.
Lands and planning officials say the war game ground, set up more than a year ago, is illegal on the 6,000 sq metre, agricultural-zoned site.
Lau said the media revelation was understandable. 'As the saying goes, it's lonely when you have reached the top,' he said.
Grand Gain Investment yesterday said it had only been informed of the existence of the war game business by the Planning Department in December last year, until when it had been unaware of it, as it had hired another company, Yellow River Engineering, to manage and lease the site since 2008.
After the department's notice, Grand Gain issued a warning letter to the war game operator in March. But Yellow River, without informing the landlord, signed a short-term lease with the operator, on the condition that he had to leave straight away if his application for permission for the business from the Town Planning Board failed.
Grand Gain said it had cancelled the appointment of Yellow River, and would 'pursue liabilities'.
A director of Yellow River recorded at the Companies Registry, Chan Chi-wah, could not be reached for comment yesterday. A staff member of the war game company, Battle Field Thunder Bolt, said it had been unaware Lau was one of the landlords when it leased the site.
The Planning Department said it had been following up the case since issuing an enforcement notice to the site landlords in December informing them of the illegal use. 'As owners of the land, they have the responsibility to ensure the land use does not violate town planning laws,' the department said. The Lands Department said staff inspected the site on Monday and would also look into the case.
Lau has said criticism of him has been motivated by hatred of the rich.
But Brian Kan Ping-chee, chairman of the Association of New Territories Indigenous Residents, said: 'If it is a mistake, it just is. [Criticism] is nothing to do with your power and wealth.' Kan was once in confrontation with Lau over the electoral system of villages.
Tsang Chin-hung, vice-chairman the Tuen Mun Rural Committee, chaired by Lau, said Lau could not make excuses. 'He has been a member of the Exco for over a year, and there has been sufficient time for him to make clear to Exco any possibly sensitive relations,' he said. Tsang has shown interest in contesting Lau for the committee's chairmanship next March.
Lau's failures had grown to an intolerable level, said Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, Civic Party leader.
'Both Lau and the government should take action, otherwise further scandals may continue to explode, and harm the Exco.'