Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying apologised yesterday over the illegal structures at his home on The Peak, a day after issuing a statement to explain them.
And he denied hiding anything, after critics questioned why he had waited until now to disclose the existence of several more unauthorised works on top of the six identified by government officials in June.
Leung made the apology before attending a public function. "There was negligence [when I handled] the incident, … and I apologise to the people of Hong Kong for that," Leung said. "I hope from now on, me, my team and the entire government can work with the society with one heart … and I can with all my energy, serve the people of Hong Kong, and face the challenges."
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor urged the public to give Leung some leeway to concentrate on policy issues. But he faces pressures from across the political spectrum to appear before the Legislative Council to explain himself. Lawmakers have already voted to request he appear before them, and yesterday at least two Beijing loyalists suggested he must do so.
Leung said in a written statement on Friday that a "lapse of memory" was responsible for his confusion over the structures.
However, he revealed he had ordered the sealing up of a 200 sq ft laundry four months before the chief executive election, after realising that the room had been expanded by the home's previous owner.
Leung did not mention this while running for the top job. But he strongly criticised rival Henry Tang Ying-yen over a luxurious 2,250 sq ft basement at Tang's Kowloon Tong home.
Leung's statement led critics to accuse him of hiding the truth.
But he said yesterday: "I have always been open and frank with the public, and I co-operated with government departments. I even invited the press to take a look at my house. I bought my home 13 years ago, sought professional advice and discovered six or seven additions and alterations. Although some were minor, I still reported them to the Buildings Department."
Leung said he had not been able to discuss the matter for six months because of a legal challenge to his election based on the illegal structures.
Carrie Lam said there was no question about Leung's integrity. "I hope … this matter can end as soon as possible because, as we all know, there are many policy matters that the chief executive must take care of," she said.
However, executive councillor Cheng Yiu-tong, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said Leung should answer any further questions people have.
Lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun, of the Liberal Party, said Leung should appear before Legco. "There are too many suspicious points in his statement," he said.