The Buildings Department (BD) has confirmed that the home owned by newly appointed Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah contains several illegal structures, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
On Tuesday, BD staff inspected House No. 4 at Villa De Mer complex in Tuen Mun after media reported that the residence, which Cheng bought in 2008, has suspected unauthorized building works.
The structures include a basement, a rooftop glass house, an extended wall on the ground floor, and a canopy, totaling 820 square feet, according to the department.
Cheng’s residence is interlinked with House No. 3, owned by her husband Otto Poon Lok-to, a former president of the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers.
The department’s personnel also inspected Poon’s house and confirmed that it had similar illegal structures with a combined area of 950 square feet.
Senior building surveyor Robin Leung Chi-tim said initial assessments suggested the overall structures of both houses are safe.
He also said the department has never received any applications for structural changes of the two houses or reports of illegal structures in their premises over the past 10 years.
Leung said the department will follow up on the case according to the Buildings Ordinance and take appropriate action with no exception.
He also revealed that the owners have submitted proposals through an authorized person to remove the illegal structures but failed to specify when.
In a statement on Tuesday, Cheng said she will continue to cooperate with related investigations and that she, as justice chief, will not get involved in how the BD deals with the illegal structures found in her husband’s house to avoid conflict of interest.
For his part, Poon admitted that he did not seek professional opinion on whether illegal structures existed at House 3 when he bought it in October 2012 as he was occupied with his work at that time, adding that he was “not discreet enough” with regard to the arrangements.
Poon said he had his house thoroughly inspected soon after receiving a notice from the BD, and promised to make corrections as soon as possible.
He also offered an apology to the public for failing to meet social expectations as a professional engineer.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan, who was a witness to the marriage of Poon and Cheng in 2016, told media that he had been to Poon’s house two to three times mainly to chat and had not paid attention to the house.
He stressed that he had no knowledge of illegal structures in the house, and did not discuss such an issue with Poon.
Asked by media about how she looked at the incident, Lam said she believes Cheng is still the perfect person in her mind to lead the Department of Justice since Cheng has never intentionally concealed from her any illegality concerning her house.
In defense of Cheng, Lam said she might just have not been vigilant and politically sensitive enough on the matter, adding that Cheng has promised her to rectify all illegal structures in her house.
Meanwhile, Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting called Cheng unfit for her new job as she has no courage to face the public and media but only issued simple statements since the matter was exposed.
While he has asked the Legislative Council to discuss the impact of the issue on the political appointment system, president Leung Kwan-yuen said he decided not to approve the request since he sees a debate on it is of no pressing importance for the public.
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