Unauthorised structures were not mentioned in new Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng’s property purchase documents from 2008, despite her having said that they existed before she bought her Tuen Mun house.

Mortgage and assignment documents published by Apple Daily on Wednesday do not specify the existence of structures such as a 500 square feet basement, which the Buildings Department earlier said were not built legally.

Teresa Cheng
Buildings Department officers examining Teresa Cheng’s house. Photo: Citizen News.

“[T]he Estate [comprises] a Ground Floor, a First Floor, Second Floor and a roof together with the garden and carport,” read the mortgage document for House No. 4 of Villa De Mer, signed with Standard Chartered Bank.

The document also included a floor plan for the house, drawn up for its initial buyer in 1993, which also does not specify the existence of a basement.

Cheng signed the document on behalf of a company named Sparkle Star Development Ltd – an entity she used to purchase the house.

Cheng Yeuk-wah
Floor plans in Teresa Cheng’s mortgage documents.

Lawmaker Tanya Chan told Apple Daily that people are usually immediately aware of any illegal structures in their property if they are not mentioned in the mortgage documents. Solicitors would also explain documents to buyers before they sign them.

Buildings Department officials entered Cheng’s house – and that of her husband and neighbour Otto Poon – for inspection on Tuesday.

A spokesperson said afterwards that aside from basements, the houses also had illegally-built rooms on the rooftop, canopies, and ponds.

Teresa Cheng
Teresa Cheng.

The new justice secretary told reporters last Saturday – the day she took office – that she did not build the illegal structures, and that they already existed when she bought the property.

“I will not resign,” she said on Wednesday evening. “I have been hoping to handle this incident well as soon as possible so that – as I said at the opening of the legal year – I can serve as secretary for justice with humility, courage and determination.”

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