Hong Kong Politics & Protest

Democrats move to summon Justice Sec. Teresa Cheng to legislature over illegal structures scandal

The pro-democracy camp has raised a motion to summon new Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng to the Legislative Council over illegal structures in her home and her husband’s business relations with the government before the end of February.

Pro-democracy camp convener Charles Mok cited Article 73 of the Basic Law, which allows lawmakers to raise questions about the government’s work and summon officials to testify or submit evidence.

“As lawmakers, we have the responsibility to demand that the government and the person in question answers the Legislative Council directly,” Mok said. “There is a lot of time before our deadline.”

Teresa Cheng

Teresa Cheng. Photo: Citizen News.

Mok said Cheng avoided coming to the legislature, even though it was her responsibility to attend and answer lawmakers’ questions at the regular LegCo meeting on Wednesday.

Mok said the motion requires the support of the pro-Beijing camp: “I hope that they will support it because this is really of great importance.”

Following revelations by local media, the Buildings Department confirmed the existence of unauthorised structures at Cheng’s Tuen Mun house, including a 538 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. Various political parties have reported her to the police.

Illegal structures were also found at her husband Otto Poon’s house, which is adjacent to hers. Poon is the chair of the ATAL Engineering Group, which is often awarded government contracts. Cheng did not reveal her relationship with Poon until reporters asked her about it.

Cheng bought the house in September 2008 at HK$26 million, more than double its previous price of HK$12.68 million less than a year earlier.

Legal scholar Eric Cheung said the price was “unreasonable” and alleged that there was a conspiracy to draw extra money from the bank using the mortgage. Citing Cheung, lawmaker Eddie Chu questioned why Cheng bought the house at such increased value during the economic downturn.

Teresa Cheng

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

“I hope she and the government will not continue to avoid questions. She is the secretary for justice – she should answer to all issues that the public finds suspicious,” Chu said.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung – chair of the Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services – said on Tuesday that Cheng has “basically agreed” to attend a panel meeting next month. But Mok said a short panel meeting may not be the appropriate environment for Cheng to answer all the questions.

Cheng also attracted controversy when she was allowed to complete six unfinished arbitration cases from her private practice after her appointment as justice chief.

The pro-democracy camp raised similar motions to summon officials in an attempt to delay the changes to the legislature’s house rules. They were accepted by the LegCo president but have yet to be processed.

Democrats move to summon Justice Sec. Teresa Cheng to legislature over illegal structures scandal