Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng has disclosed that illegal structures were found at another property she owns, promising to rectify them as soon as possible.

In a statement issued in the early hours of Monday, the embattled official said that three alterations were found by professional assessors at her property in South District. She said the changes were present before the purchase of the house.

Teresa Cheng
Teresa Cheng.

However, Apple Daily reported Monday that the sales and purchase agreement signed by Cheng’s husband on her behalf stated that “the Purchaser acknowledges that the Property contains illegal structures” and that “the relevant conditions did not apply for any approval nor obtain any approval from Government.”

The Buildings Department has been notified and rectification works will commence as soon as possible, Cheng said.

The revelation came after Cheng attracted heavy criticism over illegal structures at her Tuen Mun home. Cheng, who has degrees in engineering and law, sat on a Buildings Ordinance tribunal and co-wrote a book on construction law – said she failed to notice the structures because she was “very busy” when the house was purchased.

She said that no rectification was determined to be necessary for her two other properties in Sha Tin, though there were “some doubts” over the fire rating of a kitchen door.

“The Secretary understands public concerns over the issue and will keep the public informed of the latest development when appropriate,” she said in the statement.

Scaffolding was erected outside her house in Tuen Mun following the controversy. On Monday, Cheng said the Buildings Department had approved some rectification works to be carried out.

Teresa Cheng
Buildings Department officers examining Teresa Cheng’s house in Tuen Mun. File Photo: Citizen News.

Senior Counsel and member of the Bar Council Lawrence Lok said on a TVB talk show on Sunday that being “busy” was not an excuse. He warned that it would be difficult for the government to introduce new laws if the scandal was not resolved properly.

He said earlier that Cheng should take responsibility and resign, but Cheng said she would not step down over the matter.

Refusal to attend LegCo meeting

Meanwhile, Cheng refused to attend Monday’s legislative meeting with the Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services, citing inadequate preparation. However, she attended a Commercial Radio talk show on Sunday to speak about the controversy.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung criticised her decision, saying that it would damage the executive-legislative relationship. She said both democrats and pro-establishment figures wanted her to answer questions at the legislature as soon as possible.

Pro-democracy lawmakers have also raised a motion to summon the justice secretary to the legislature over the illegal structures and her husband’s business relations with the government. Her husband Otto Poon is a top engineer whose companies have won many multi-million-dollar bids on government projects.

The Labour Party have reported the case to police, alleging that Cheng made false statements to her bank when she obtained a mortgage for her house by failing to mention a basement built without government approval.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.