The Buildings Department has confirmed that various illegal structures have been found in properties owned by the new Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng and her husband Otto Poon. The department said that it will take suitable action according to the relevant regulations.

Following an inspection, Buildings Department surveyor Robin Leung told reporters on Tuesday that the illegal structures include rooms on the roof, basements, canopies, and ponds.

Buildings Department surveyor Robin Leung. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Leung said that the department had not received any applications for building works or structural alterations, nor had there been any reports of illegal structures over the past decade.

The couple reside in House no. 3 and 4 at the Villa De Mer in Tuen Mun. After Cheng revealed that Poon was her husband, local media reported that the two residences were connected with a door.

‘Intensive’ work pace

Cheng’s husband, Otto Poon, released a statement on Tuesday afternoon, stating that he did not seek professional advice on illegal structures when he purchased House no. 3 in October 2012. “My work pace was intensive then, but looking back, my arrangements had not been comprehensive enough.”

Poon said that he has hired an authorised surveyor to conduct a thorough inspection of the property following a notice by the Buildings Department last Friday. He said he is actively cooperating with the investigation and will make corrections as soon as possible.

Teresa Cheng.

Poon added: “As a professional engineer and someone who has always been keen on contributing to society, I understand that my performance falls short of other’s expectations of me. I feel regretful and apologetic, and will learn a lesson from this experience to do better.”

Cheng earlier said that the unauthorised structures at her home already existed when she bought the property in 2008.

‘Not integrity issue’

Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters on Tuesday morning that she hoped the public would afford Cheng some “time and room” to sort the situation out.

“Based on the information that I have now, I do not feel this is an integrity issue. And that’s why it would not compromise Teresa’s position as Secretary for Justice,” she said.

“It is now very difficult to really attract talented people to come into the administration because of the political situation, and that’s why people describe this situation as being a very hot kitchen,” Lam said, adding that Cheng could only have made the decision to join her team because she wished to serve the people of Hong Kong.

Prominent lawyer Lawrence Lok has said that Cheng should resign over the controversy.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.