Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po has said he will spend HK$830,000 in public funds to renovate his official residence, denying reports from Apple Daily last week claiming that he would spend up to HK$2 million.

Chan replaced John Tsang Chun-wah as financial secretary in January, when the latter started his campaign to become Hong Kong’s chief executive. Chan only has four months remaining in his current term, but will move into the Deep Water Bay mansion nevertheless.

quarters house mansion
The financial secretary’s official residence. Photo: Lookchard via Wikicommons.

The financial secretary’s office issued a statement on Monday stating that Chan will spend HK$390,000 repairing the the mansion. He will spend HK$40,000 replacing carpets, HK$180,000 painting external walls, HK$160,000 replacing furniture and installations, and leave HK$60,000 for contingencies – a total of HK$830,000.

“In view of the deterioration of the parts and facilities in the residence due to their use over a long time, relevant departments… proposed to carry out some necessary repair and restoration works after the former financial secretary [Tsang] had moved out,” the statement read.

“Such works are an integral part of the maintenance for the residence,” it added. “The last large-scale renovation was carried out in 2007.”

Chan also told Commercial Radio on Saturday that the residence would need to accommodate a range of overseas guests, and that it represents the image of Hong Kong.

It remains unclear whether Chan will be appointed financial secretary by the new chief executive, who will be elected in March and take office in July.

No tennis court or fishpond

Apple Daily initially reported last Friday that Chan would spend an estimated HK$2 million on renovating his official residence. Built in 1935, the residence is located on Shouson Hill Road, and is listed as a Grade III Historic Building by the Antiquities and Monuments Office.

Paul Chan. File photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Apple Daily claimed that the works included repairing the fishpond and re-laying the surface of the tennis court. The newspaper claimed that satellite images showed the surface of the tennis court was already removed.

However, neither of the items were mentioned in the estimates provided by the financial secretary’s office on Monday.

Previous allegations

Chan also attracted controversy four years ago in his previous role as secretary for development. In July 2013, local media alleged that his wife and family owned agricultural land in the Northeast New Territories, which he proposed to develop into a new urban area.

The development plans were passed in the Legislative Council despite protests and filibusters from the pro-democracy camp in 2014. The following year, the Independent Commission Against Corruption decided to terminate its investigation into the allegations against Chan.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.