Following is a question by the Hon James To Kun-sun and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Mak Chai-kwong, in the Legislative Council today (July 11):
According to Article 47 of the Basic Law, the Chief Executive (CE) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region must be a person of integrity, dedicated to his or her duties and yet, in the two mansions owned by the new-term CE in Yue Hei Yuen at Peel Rise of The Peak on Hong Kong Island, six unauthorised building works (UBWs) were found earlier. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether any criminal investigation has been carried out into the UBWs involving the aforesaid properties as reported in the past month; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(b) whether, when performing integrity checking on CE and the principal officials under the accountability system (accountable officials), the authorities at present check if the properties they own breach the legislation relating to UBWs; if not, given the public concern about their illegal behaviours and integrity problems in this respect, whether the authorities will incorporate the relevant checking into the system of integrity checking for CE and accountable officials; and
(c) given that the aforesaid properties were checked by registered professionals for UBWs at the time of transfer in 1999, but the authorities had earlier confirmed the existence of six UBWs (including a basement with an area of about 240 square feet right under the parking space) in these properties, and some registered professionals, after checking afresh the properties, had publicly said that they believed the unauthorised basement was not an additional structure built after occupancy in 2000 and should be the power control room originally designed for the mansion and the garden concerned, whether the authorities will conduct an investigation to find out if the registered professionals responsible for checking the aforesaid properties in 1999 had honestly discharged their professional duties, and if the unauthorised basement had been built illegally before the occupation permit was granted?
As in the case of a similar question raised by a Member last week, I wish to reiterate that the issue of unauthorised building works (UBWs) is high on the Government's agenda. The Government has always put the safety of buildings in the first place, and will take a pragmatic stance to handle the issue through prioritisation and categorisation. We have formulated a clear enforcement policy against UBWs, and the Buildings Department (BD), following the principle of acting in accordance with the law and being impartial to all, has all along been handling UBW cases (including the UBW case of Houses 4 and 5 at No 4 Peel Rise) pursuant to the Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123) (BO) and the prevailing enforcement policy.
For cases reported by members of the public or by the media involving senior Government officials and celebrities, the BD has established a procedure for according priority to arranging site inspections for such cases, with the objective of clearing any public concerns as soon as possible.
After the site inspection, the BD will take appropriate enforcement action in accordance with the BO and the prevailing enforcement policy against UBWs in an impartial manner. Irrespective of the identity of the owner, the BD will not make any special arrangements when carrying out the enforcement actions, and will follow the principle of acting in accordance with the law and being impartial to all.
On criminal investigations, the policy and stance all along adopted by the BD in its enforcement work against UBWs is to require the owner to rectify the situation as soon as possible in order to ensure safety.
Under normal circumstances, the BD will not initiate criminal investigation on whether there have been contraventions to the BO. BD will also follow this established principle and stance when determining the required follow-up actions for cases involving senior Government officials and celebrities. The identity of the owner is not among the factors considered by BD as to whether criminal investigation has to be initiated.
My reply to the three-part question is as follows:
(a) The BD is now handling the case in accordance with the procedures for general UBW cases, and will not initiate criminal investigations on whether there have been contraventions to the BO. The BD will keep in view the development of the case, and continue to analyse and process the information gathered with a view to determining the necessary follow-up actions.
(b) According to the Basic Law and the relevant local statutes, the Chief Executive (CE) shall be returned by election and appointed by the Central People's Government.
During the process of the election, the CE is accountable to the society for his personal background and experience. As such, his integrity, conduct, past deeds, and philosophy are all under the close scrutiny by the public, members of the Election Committee and the press.
All Principal Officials of the political appointment system have to undergo the extended checking process. The same extended checking questionnaire as currently used in the civil service is issued by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government to the person who is to be nominated as a Principal Official. The form seeks information relating to the personal particulars of the individual; his education background, social activities, employment history, and family members. The persons under checking are also required to nominate two referees.
(c) The BD does not have information on the inspection for the presence of UBWs by registered professionals in the subject premises during the ownership transfer in 1999. The Administration is thus not yet able to decide whether there is a need to initiate investigations.
As regards the floor space beneath the car-parking space in House 5 at No 4 Peel Rise, the BD has pointed out that before the occupation permit (OP) was granted in 1992 to the concerned properties, the Department had carried out an inspection and confirmed that the buildings had been constructed in accordance with the approved plans. In addition, the information gathered by BD so far does not suggest that the floor space had been constructed before the OP was granted. The BD will keep in view the development of the case, and continue to analyse and process the information gathered with a view to determining the necessary follow-up actions.
Ends/Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:37