Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying yesterday reiterated his support for Development Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po.
He said Chan should remain in office despite the conflict-of-interest scandal surrounding his family's ownership of land on the site of a proposed New Territories new town.
On Friday Chan's aide, political assistant Henry Ho Kin-chung, whose family was revealed to own land in the same area, apologised for failing to declare their ownership and resigned from the government. Ho's resignation increased pressure on Chan to step down.
Both families' land is in Kwu Tung, which is included in the development plan for the northeastern New Territories. Both families are expected to receive government compensation of up to HK$20 million each.
"Ho's case is different from Chan's. Chan declared his interests in accordance with the government guidelines after he took office," Leung said, sidestepping a question about whether he knew of the Chan family's interests before October.
Chan succeeded Mak Chai-kwong as the city's development chief last July after Mak became ensnared in a corruption investigation. However, it was not until October that Chan reported to the chief executive that his wife, Frieda Hui Po-ming, held an interest in 18,000 square feet of farmland in the area.
"The Development Bureau and the civil service will continue to stay united," he said. "We will employ the best possible method to carry out the development plan. Whatever method we take, the purpose is to make sure the project can be taken forward as soon as possible."
Former civil service secretary Wong Wing-ping yesterday echoed calls for Chan to quit. "He might have declared interests according to the guidelines but that does not mean he meets the higher integrity standards [expected] of a top official," he said.