Reporters and protestors spent Thursday crowding outside the multi-million dollar villas of Henry Tang, the man backed by China’s Communist Party to be Hong Kong’s next chief executive, after reports surfaced in the press that he had built a basement under his private swimming pool in violation of building codes.
While Tang had earlier claimed the basement was just “a hole in the ground to store things in”, floor plans of the 200 square metre “underground palace” were soon splashed by the Hong Kong tabloid Apple Daily.
Long dogged by verbal gaffes and rumours of marital infidelity, Tang said the basement was built by his wife, in a hastily put together press conference yesterday afternoon.
“It was my wife’s idea and I knew they were illegal. Since we were experiencing a low ebb in our marriage,” he said. “I did not handle the matter swiftly. I take full responsibility for the incident.”
“I ask the people of Hong Kong to give me a chance to serve the people,” he added, showing no intention of dropping out of the upcoming election.
Multiple media outlets hired cranes to film over the high walls of Tang’s bungalow after journalists were blocked from going inside. Activists donning Pinocchio masks were also seen outside, demanding Tang to stop lying.
Overnight, the scene outside Tang’s house exploded into an internet meme as Hong Kong netizens juxtaposed it with images of recent meetings between Vice President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama, Godzilla and Transformers in photoshopped pictures that have gone viral.
The Buildings Department has since announced that it will send Tang a letter seeking the demolition of the basement.
If prosecuted by the department, and found guilty, Tang may have to sit behind bars for a maximum of two years, pay a fine of up to HK$200,000, and be rendered ineligible to remain in the race to become Hong Kong’s next leader.