Nip apologizes but denies conflict in flat purchases

Top News | Stella Wong 21 Oct 2019

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen has apologized for his family buying two off-plan properties before the policy address, saying it caused misunderstanding and negative public perceptions.

It was revealed that Nip's family bought two incomplete residential units last month - ahead of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announcing a relaxation of mortgage restrictions in the address.

The restrictions easing allows first-time homebuyers to borrow up to 90 percent of a property's value worth a maximum of HK$8 million from a previous HK$4 million - a measure that could push up prices.

Critics suspected a possible conflict of interest as Nip's family could potentially benefit from a rise in property prices.

Posting on Facebook, Nip said he was not involved in the decisions to purchase two off-plan first-hand residential properties in Sham Shui Po, nor was he involved in any discussions of housing policies for the address.

"The decision [to purchase properties] was made solely by my family members," he said. "I was not involved at all. My family members fully own the properties."

Nip said he declared relevant interests on time to the Executive Council according to an established mechanism after the completion of those transactions was acknowledged, adding that related information was uploaded to the bureau's website for the public's inspection early this month.

Nip clarified in the post that he was not involved in discussing and formulating the housing policies in the address, "preventing any conflict of interest."

In addition, Nip said he and his family did not benefit from the housing measures in the address. "However, I understand that this incident may have caused misunderstandings and negative perceptions in the public," he said. "I feel deeply sorry and I will be more prudent in the future."

On the television program On the Record, Lam said Nip had no involvement in any government discussions about the new housing measures.

"I can firmly say that he never took part in any internal discussions about relaxing the loan-to-value ratio," Lam said.

"So when the address was announced, just like [the public, Nip] did not know there would be such a policy coming out."

Lam admitted that the incident is a "problem in perception" as society holds a low degree of trust toward he government.

Neo Democrats lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai said he will report Nip's case to the Independent Commission Against Corruption today.

stellast.wong@singtaonewscorp.com

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