The controversy surrounding development chief Paul Chan Mo-po over the proposed Kwu Tung new town grew yesterday when his political assistant quit for failing to declare his family's stake in land on the same site.
Henry Ho Kin-chung, 41, Chan's assistant since December, apologised and bowed to the public for not declaring his interests to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Chan.
"I did not declare. That is inappropriate, so I take responsibility and resign now," he said.
Ho is the second member of Leung's governing team to quit in the last two days.
Executive councillor Franklin Lam Fan-keung resigned on Thursday after the Department of Justice decided not to prosecute him over allegations of misconduct in office related to the sale of two Mid-Levels flats.
Ho found himself in hot water over four lots of land in the proposed Kwu Tung new town site he once held with family members through a private company founded by his father and uncle.
There is a also a factory on the site, operated by the family, that makes pesticides.
Ho was controlling shareholder and a director of the firm from September 2006 until November last year. He said he transferred his interests to his mother before his appointment.
But he did not explain why he failed to declare this after his appointment or more recently when Chan became embroiled in a similar conflict-of-interest row over the Kwu Tung site.
Chan has refused to step down after his wife and her family were revealed to own land in the same development area. He declared these interests to the chief executive two months after his appointment in July last year.
But political analyst Ivan Choy Chi-keung said Ho's move would exert pressure on Chan.
"Ho does not even have policy-making power but he still chooses to resign," said Choy.
"How can Chan have standards of political ethics lower than his aide?"
Lawmaker and Executive councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said Ho had committed a "serious mistake" and his resignation was appropriate.
A government spokesman confirmed Ho never declared the land interests to the chief executive or Chan and cited codes for officials under the political appointments system.
"The code states that politically appointed officials shall report to the chief executive any private interests that might influence, or appear to influence, their judgment in the performance of their duties," he said.
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said that he respected Ho's decision and did not believe his resignation would affect the work of the Development Bureau.