July 12, 2012 / 10:38 AM / 7 years ago

Hong Kong's new government suffers fresh blow as official arrested

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong’s development secretary stepped down on Thursday amid news of his arrest by the city’s anti-corruption agency on suspicion of corruption, a government spokesman said, dealing a fresh blow to the city’s beleaguered new leader Leung Chun-ying.

Leung, who is himself ensnared in a scandal over six illegal structures at his HK$500 million ($64 million) home in the exclusive Peak district, made Mak Chai-kwong his development minister barely two weeks ago.

A spokesperson for Mak confirmed he had resigned, but declined to comment on reports of his arrest.

The resignation came shortly before the city’s anti-graft agency said it had arrested four unnamed people, including the head of a government bureau, for “allegedly violating the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance in relation to government housing allowances”.

The agency did not say if any charges had been laid.

Hong Kong has been rocked by a series of scandals involving senior government officials, including the case related to Leung, which has badly hit his popularity ratings.

The government said Mak would be replaced by Financial Secretary John Tsang until further notice.

In a city where many residents need to work their whole life to pay off a mortgage on a small home, the recent scandals and perceived cozy relations between business tycoons and government officials have triggered a wave of condemnation.

Crowds spilled on to the streets in a massive protest on July 1, the 15th anniversary of this former British colony’s return to Chinese rule to protest against everything from high property prices to human rights abuses in China.

Leung, who will make his first formal appearance before the city’s legislators next Monday, is expected to be grilled about the illegal structures at his home and the credibility of his two-week old administration.

“His administration is only two weeks old and one of his ministers has to resign ... this means its credibility is highly questionable,” said legislator Alan Leong, who heads the Civic Party.

Reporting by Tan Ee Lyn and Sisi Tang; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Jeremy Laurence

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