Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said on Friday that two controversial, partitioned flats, owned by his wife’s company, were not subdivided flats.
Still, he agreed that the case must be adjudicated in accordance with the law. He said he regretted his previous inability to articulate the issue, which resulted in subsequent misunderstandings. Chan declared he had spoke the truth in his previous media briefing on the subject.
The two controversial flats in Shanghai Street and Tai Kok Tsui were purchased by Harvest Charm Development in 1994 shortly after the company was founded. Chan and his wife, Frieda Hui Po-ming, were two company shareholders. Chan resigned as the director of the company in 1997.
He said when the company bought the flat on Shanghai Street, it was not illegally partitioned and sublet. Chan stressed he had no knowledge that the unit may have been reconstructed by tenants and sublet.
Agreeing with Chan, the chairman of the Council of the Building Surveyor Division of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors, Vincent Ho Kui-yip, said there is a difference between partitioned rooms and subdivided flats.
Ho said the function of a partitioned room was to serve as a bedroom. A subdivided flat, however, was divided into separate, independent flats, with independent toilet and kitchen.
Nevertheless, Chan stressed, partitioned rooms and subdivided flats are not necessarily illegal. If the partitioned room fulfilled the requirements of the Building Ordinance, by having a window or ventilated hole to let the light in, the partitioning would not be illegal. And it would be exempt from requiring a building permit if the related construction work did not relate to any alteration of structural components.
Ho said it doesn’t matter what kind of material was used to partition the flats, it was the purpose and facility of the room that is at issue. Without a complete unit, a bedroom, an independent toilet and kitchen, that flat could not be called “subdivided flat”.
In the meantime, Chan stressed that the Building Department will handle the case impartially and according to law, and will not report the case to him.
Expressing regrets again, Chan said he will continue to work with his full focus and strength, hoping his performance on the job will meet the public’s expectation of him.
“I have considered it over and over again and have not slept well for the past two weeks. I understand the public’s concerns and expectations. However, my heart has not changed and I still want to serve the public,” said Chan.
Chan reiterated that he and his wife will not involve themselves in Hong Kong’s property market, unless for their own use from now on. In the meantime, Hui will sell all her shares in the company.
Chan also apologized to the media for the inconvenience caused by his belated statement, saying the event in question occurred about 18 years ago and he needed time to sort out the truth.
Chan will leave Hong Kong to accompany his daughter to attend college on Sunday, for a week.