Bare the basement

Top News | Phila Siu 16 Feb 2012

Chief executive hopeful Henry Tang Ying-yen is under intense pressure to reveal what is in the huge illegal basement of one of his homes after a sketch claimed to show a 2,400-square-foot structure fitted out in super-luxury style.

The sketch, published in a newspaper yesterday, showed a store room, fitness room and changing room - plus a theater and wine-tasting room.

Tang said inspectors from the Buildings Department will visit his two Kowloon Tong houses - at 5A and 7 York Road in Kowloon Tong - today together with a professional he has hired to follow up illegal structure claims.

He is also being challenged to let the media see for themselves what lurks underneath 7 York Road.

Tang said he has no memory of having seen the sketch before. "The work has been taking place for 10 years and we have not lived there during these years," he said. "I actually do not know how big it is. I just know that it is a space, and that it is unauthorized building work which was used for storage."

When asked if the basement contains a theater and other facilities listed in the sketch, he said: "That does not match. It is basically used for storage."

He admitted a member of his family supervised the construction but refused to say who.

On when the unauthorized structure was built, he said it should have been after the occupation permit for the house was issued.

Tang said he will consider inviting the media into his house, but that will be after the Buildings Department inspection.

Meanwhile, a department spokesman said officers carried out an inspection on January 22, 2007, and the building works were in accordance with the approved plans. No unauthorized structures were found.

Liberal Party chairwoman and lawmaker Miriam Lau Kin-yee said the party did not regret nominating Tang, but will reconsider whether the party will vote for him in the election next month.

"His explanations are not convincing," she said.

Lawmaker Ip Kwok-him of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong - which holds 147 votes - said the party has high expectations of each candidate and will consider all factors before deciding who to support.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat said if the sketch is authentic, it means that Tang has not been open. If so, he should not stand.

Another chief executive candidate, Albert Ho Chun-yan, said the incident raise concerns over Tang's credibility. He said Tang should have allowed the media into his house earlier.

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