Tycoon's illegal 'underground palace' buries his hopes of ruling Hong Kong

Tang blames his wife after the media expose the truth about his secret luxury basement

Politicians on the campaign trail are frequently haunted by their secrets – but it is not often thatthey involve an illegal "underground palace".

Henry Tang, who had been tipped as Hong Kong's next leader, has been forced to face down calls to bow out of the election race after a luxurious 2,250 sq ft basement was discovered under his house – in violation of the territory's strict property development laws.

Mr Tang had claimed that the unauthorised basement was nothing more than a storage cupboard, but was forced to admit the truth when local media hired cranes to see over the walled compound of his house in the upmarket Kowloon area.

From their vantage point, reporters could look into the basement through the glass-bottom of the courtyard swimming pool, and discovered that the "storage cupboard" contained a wine cellar, home theatre, Japanese-style bath and a mini-gym. Mr Tang, 59, a textile heir and a favourite among Hong Kong's business community, was quick to apologise. But he also pointed fingers at his wife and blamed their marital problems for the oversight.

"I apologise to all Hong Kong people," an emotional Mr Tang told a press conference. "It was my wife's idea and I knew they were illegal. Since we were experiencing a low ebb in our marriage... I did not handle the matter swiftly. I take full responsibility for the incident."

Mr Tang's wife, Lisa Kuo, wept as she apologised, telling reporters that she had supervised the renovation of the couple's house as her husband was too busy with work. "I just wanted to plan a comfy place for my family," she said.

The Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily accused Mr Tang of selling-out on his on wife in pursuit of power, and said his credibility had been "buried" by his "underground palace".

A chronic shortage of space in Hong Kong means many of the island's seven million inhabitants live in homes a quarter of the size of Mr Tang's basement.

He could face up to two years in prison and a fine of 400,000 Hong Kong dollars (£32,500) for the offence if authorities press charges.

Hong Kong's next leader is due to be chosen by a 1,200-member election committee next month. Although he has not yet officially declared his intention to run, Mr Tang is Beijing's favourite to succeed the current chief executive, Donald Tsang.

"He has almost lost all his credibility in the whole thing, he lied every day," political scientist Ma Ngok of the Chinese University of Hong Kong told AFP. "It appears that he's still trying to canvass Beijing's support, but based on his credibility it will be very difficult for him to lead Hong Kong for the next five years, even if he is elected."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there