Teresa Cheng apologizes but won't resign over house saga

January 22, 2018 13:55
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng receives a petition letter from the League of Social Democrats after  attending a radio program on Sunday morning. Photo: HKEJ

Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah said she has to take responsibility for illegal structures found in her house in Tuen Mun since she is the owner, and apologized to the public for her failure to detect them before moving in, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Cheng, who took office on Jan. 6, told a radio program on Sunday she did not pay attention to the unauthorized building works as she was too busy with multiple jobs when she bought the house, adding that she was often not in Hong Kong at the time. 

However, the justice chief said she hopes that when she said she was "too busy" at the time, the public won't think that she is just making an excuse.

The Buildings Department has confirmed the existence of illegal structures in Cheng's house. It also approved some rectification works to be conducted, according to a government press release issued late Sunday night.

In the radio program, Cheng said she is the owner of the house and therefore she should assume full responsibility, adding that she is asking the public to understand her situation and give her a chance to apologize.

In fact, she offered apologies at least five times during the interview.

Cheng reiterated that the interior of the house remains the same as it was at the time of her purchase, a decision which she made quickly without noticing the illegal structures. She said she was fond of the house and wanted to move in as soon as possible.

Asked why she bought the house in 2008 at double its price a year ago, considering that it was the onset of the global financial crisis, Cheng said Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in September of that year, after she signed the purchase contract.

Besides, she said, she did not care what the future price of the house would be; she bought it not for investment but to live in it.

Cheng rejected suggestions in some media reports that she was acquainted with the former owner of her house. She insisted she did not know the person, although she thought the owner might be an architect.

She also dismissed allegations that she had intentionally concealed the illegal structures from the bank and got a higher mortgage as a result.

Cheng stressed the idea of resignation has never occurred to her and she will take a lesson from the house saga to do a good job in the future.

Asked whether she had checked her other properties for any unauthorized building work, Cheng said she has asked authorized persons to check them.

Aside from the Tuen Mun house, Cheng also owns three other houses, two in Sha Tin and one in Hong Kong Island.

According to the government press release, Cheng’s house in Hong Kong Island contains three alternations without registration and they were already in place when she bought it.

Separately, Dr. Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, who chairs the Legislative Council’s panel on administration of justice and legal services, criticized Cheng for refusing to present herself in its meeting scheduled for Monday to explain the house saga, calling such refusal harmful to administrative-legislative relations.

Cheng said it was a misunderstanding as she needs more time to seek legal views on various issues such as the co-location plan for the Express Rail Link before she can disclose her work plans to the panel on Feb. 26 as scheduled or earlier if possible. She dismissed insinuations that she was disrespectful to the lawmakers.

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