Henry Tang, Hong Kong's likely next chief executive, now finds himself in a scandal concerning an illegally built basement at one of his luxury flats, potentially damaging his chances of becoming the leader of the island state.
Outcry from the public and the media erupted when a newspaper published building plans of the construction. The 656-square-foot structure, dubbed an underground palace by local media, reportedly contains a jacuzzi, wine cellars, and an entertainment center.
Tang denied the existence of the luxury basement before the plans were released, calling it a hole in the ground to store things in.
Outraged citizens and reporters, some even bringing in cranes to see into the property, surrounded the residence on Thursday.
Tang told reporters that he will not remove himself from the chief executive race, for which he quit his position as head of civil service in September.
Tang, the son of a wealthy Shanghai businessman, is backed by China's central government in his bid to succeed current chief executive Donald Tsang. The current row further damages Tang's already fragile reputation, as he was also accused of engaging in extra-marital affairs in the past.
I ask the people of Hong Kong to give me a chance to serve the people, Tang said in response to the scandal.
In another example of modern-day chivalry, Tang blamed the illicit structure on his wife.
According to Associated Press, people who construct without a planning permission may face fines of up to 400,000 Hong Kong dollars ($51,500) or up to two years in jail.
This completely crosses the bottom line of tolerance from the public, Albert Ho, chairman of Hong Kong's opposition Democratic Party, said in reference to Tang.
The effect of the basement scandal on Beijing's support of Tang is yet to be seen.
Much depends on the fallout. They still have some time but ... senior leaders would have to meet to discuss this, political pundit Ivan Choy told Reuters.
A 1,200-member selection committee, dominated by Communist Party members, will choose Hong Kong's next chief executive on March 25.