Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Sunday defended Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Secretary Patrick Nip, confirming that he didn’t know about moves to relax mortgage restrictions ahead of time, when his family members bought two flats in Sham Shui Po last month.

The purchases have raised concerns of a possible conflict of interest, as the mortgage changes – announced in Lam’s policy address on Wednesday – have given the local property market a boost.

Speaking in an interview on TVB, Lam said the minister wasn’t involved in discussions about the government’s housing policy in the run-up to the policy address.

She said therefore, it can’t be said that his family had deliberately timed the purchases to come before her policy address, or that he knew anything about the policy change.

At the same time, the Chief Executive added that, at a time when suspicions are high, officials should have a higher regard for public perception.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Nip explained that his family members are the sole owners of the properties, and he has no direct interest in them. He added that they had made the decision to purchase the flats completely independently.

Nip added that his family did not benefit from the new mortgage measures, and that he had declared the new property holdings in his declaration of interests as a member of the Executive Council as soon as he found out about the transactions.

The minister did say he is “deeply sorry” about the misunderstanding and negative perception that this incident may have given rise to, adding that he would be more careful in future.