Lawmakers remained unconvinced yesterday after development minister Paul Chan Mo-po's wife said that if she wanted to stockpile land with development potential in the New Territories she would have bought more than one plot in 19 years.
With her husband still embroiled in a conflict-of-interest row over farmland at Kwu Tung that is included in a new town plan, Frieda Hui Po-ming made the point in a statement published in several Chinese-language newspapers yesterday.
She also apologised for causing her family trouble over the land and insisted that her husband had never owned the 18,000 square foot plot.
"It is not a stockpile of land," she said. "If it was, I would not have bought just one plot of land over 19 years."
Cyd Ho Sau-lan of the Labour Party said: "It doesn't matter if she bought only one piece of land or lots of land. Former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung stepped down just because he bought a car before he raised the vehicle tax."
Hui said the land was bought through Statement Industries in 1994, but the government did not announce Kwu Tung as a "potential strategic development site" until 1996.
Having already sold her interest in the company that holds the land, she further pledged in the statement to disclose all documents related to her own family's connection to the site. The land is due to be sold by open tender at market price.
She also condemned journalists for following her children.
Lawmakers passed a non-binding motion last Friday calling on Chan to step down, and thousands of people joined a march on Sunday to express their dissatisfaction with him.
The Legislative Council development panel will hold its third and fourth hearing on the Northeast New Territories Redevelopment plan today and tomorrow. It proposes new towns at Fan Ling North and Kwu Tung North and includes the plot in question.
Civic Party lawmaker Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said Hui was trying to distract the public from the key issues. "Chan's inability to declare interest publicly and the actual and substantial gain involved are the main points."
He said Chan, as the bureau chief, could no longer lead the redevelopment project, urging him to hold himself accountable and step down.