Hong Kong’s minister in charge of constitutional and mainland affairs has apologised over his family’s property purchases ahead of Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s policy address last week.
Patrick Nip said on Sunday that he “had no involvement” with the decision to buy property, which was made solely by his family. Responding to questions about potential enrichment arising from a change in housing policies, Nip dismissed the notion, saying he declared his interest to the Executive Council in early October.
“I understand that the incident may have caused misunderstandings and negative perception, and I deeply apologise for that. I will be more prudent in the future,” Nip wrote in a statement online.
In her policy address last Wednesday, Lam announced a relaxation of mortgage restrictions that would allow first-time homebuyers to borrow up to 90 per cent of the purchase price for properties worth up to HK$8 million. Hong Kong’s housing prices rose after the announcement, which led critics to ask if the two properties owned by Nip’s family also increased in value.
“I did not participate in the discussion and formulation of the housing policies in the 2019 Policy Address, therefore there is no conflict of interest,” Nip wrote. “My family and I did not benefit from the housing policies or any other policies in the Policy Address.”
Lam also defended Nip in a TV interview, saying that he was “no different from an average member of the public” because he did not know about the upcoming housing policies when his family bought the flats.
Nip’s family bought the two properties in Sham Shui Po in September – information which was posted on the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau website for public viewing in early October. The flats are 100 per cent owned by the minister’s family, according to Nip.
On Monday, transport and housing chief Frank Chan said that the housing and land policies in the latest governance blueprint were drafted by himself, Financial Secretary Paul Chan and Secretary for Development Michael Wong.
“Policy formulation is confidential… in the process where I made the housing policies, I did not meet with [Patrick Nip],” Chan said on a radio programme.
In 2003, then-financial secretary Anthony Leung resigned after he was revealed to have bought an HK$790,000 private car around two months before the government announced a sharp rise in the first-time registration tax for vehicles.
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