The Labour Party has reported new Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng to the police, alleging that she made false statements to her bank when she obtained a mortgage for her house by failing to mention the basement.

Following revelations by local media, the Buildings Department confirmed the existence of unauthorised structures at Cheng’s Tuen Mun house on Tuesday, including a 500 square-foot basement. Cheng said they existed before she bought the house in 2008, but mortgage documents at the time made no mention of the structures.

Cheng, a chartered engineer, claimed it was an oversight and that she did not realise there were illegal structures at her house because she was too busy. But Labour Party chairman Steven Kwok said the police must investigate whether Cheng deceived the Standard Chartered Bank when she took out her mortgage from them.

Stephen Kwok
Stephen Kwok (centre). Photo: Screenshot.

“The mortgage documents clearly showed there was no basement and she signed. She has been claiming that she did not know whether there were illegal structures… we have reasons to believe she misled the bank,” he said.

Cheng was co-author of the legal book Construction Law and Practice in Hong Kong published by Sweet & Maxwell. The latest version was published in 2013 and mentioned cases of illegal structures.

She was also one of the chairs of the Appeal Tribunal appointed under the Buildings Ordinance between 2000 and 2006.

Teresa Cheng
Teresa Cheng; Construction Law and Practice in Hong Kong.

Lands Department and Rating and Valuation Department officers entered Cheng’s house on Thursday morning for an inspection.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Thursday that she hopes “everyone treats this matter with greater tolerance.”

“We’re talking about 2008 here… the policy for dealing with illegal structures has changed a lot over the past decade.”

Earlier, Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan alleged that Cheng could have violated Section 18 of the Theft Ordinance by obtaining bank credit by “deception.”

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.