Teresa Cheng

Teresa Cheng housing controversy deepens as she reveals she is married to neighbour

Hong Kong’s new justice minister apologised on Saturday after suspected illegal structures were found in her home

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 January, 2018, 8:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 12:39pm

Hong Kong’s newly appointed justice chief Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah revealed for the first time on Saturday that she was married to her next-door neighbour, top engineer Otto Poon Lok-to.

The disclosure of the previously little known marriage further propelled public scrutiny of Cheng’s three-storey Tuen Mun house.

The No 4 house in Villa De Mer was revealed to have what were suspected to be illegal structures on Friday, the day of Cheng’s appointment.

During a brief press conference on Saturday, Cheng, 59, who up until Friday was believed to be single, was asked about her relationship with Poon, 78, who lives in the No 3 house next door.

“Mr Poon Lok-to is my husband,” Cheng said.

On Boxing Day in 2016, Cheng’s and Poon’s houses were robbed, with Cheng missing HK$3 million in cash and valuables, and Poon missing HK$13,000 in cash and golden coins.

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A source familiar with the investigation said Cheng was sleeping with Poon in Poon’s house after a Christmas party when the burglary happened.

The source said the thieves were able to enter one house from the other because the two houses were connected by a shared door in their back gardens.

Land Registry records show that Cheng bought her house in 2008 for HK$26 million and Poon bought his in 2012 for HK$27 million.

Cheng had been a senior counsel since 2000 and former chairwoman of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre. She is also a chartered engineer.

Poon and his ex-wife Kay Kan Lai-kwan divorced in 2009 after she discovered that Poon was in a long-term relationship with an employee named Queenie Law. After prolonged legal battles, the Court of Final Appeal in 2014 ruled that Kan, then 75, would get a divorce payout worth more than HK$766 million, about half of Poon’s HK$1.5 billion family trust.

According to court records, the couple married in 1968 and Poon created the trust fund in 1995. But tragedy struck the same year, when the couple’s younger daughter died in a traffic accident. The wife recalled being “totally heartbroken”, while the husband was quoted as saying: “Kay and I found it impossible to talk to each other or to turn to each other in our moment of grief.”

Five years later, the couple’s only son died after jumping from the balcony of their home. After that loss, Poon told the court, the distance between the couple “became too wide to be bridged … there was simply nothing that we could say to each other any more”. While they lived under the same roof, their marriage was “a bare shell and nothing more”.

An engineer for over 50 years, Poon founded Atal Engineering Group in 1977. The company was involved in the high profile corruption trial of Macau’s former secretary for transport and public works Ao Man-long, and Hong Kong tycoons Joseph Lau Luen-hung and Steven Lo Kit-sing.

Former Atal manager Fong Chun-yau was one of the eight defendants involved in the case.

Poon has previously sat on many public bodies such as the Energy Advisory Committee, the Green Building Council and the Institution of Engineers.

He is also a member of the chief executive election committee and nominated Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor when she was running in the election last year.