Media > SCMP > Business sector ‘has to back Beijing’

Business sector ‘has to back Beijing’

Businesses ‘must back Beijing’ on extradition

Liaison office remarks on extradition bill compel support, James Tien says

Beijing’s drive to push through a controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong will effectively force the city’s

business sector to align behind the proposals, a former lawmaker has said.

James Tien Pei-chun, of the business-friendly Liberal Party, said strong remarks attacking Western powers for

interfering in the row – from the director of Beijing’s liaison office in the city, Wang Zhimin – had made it

essential the entire pro-establishment camp back the government’s push.

“The government could ask for a vote on the bill at any time, or in June or July, because it has now become a

mandatory mission [from Beijing],” Tien said on a radio programme yesterday. “The pro-establishment camp will all

fall in and support it.”

The contentious bill would allow the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions Hong Kong does not have an

extradition deal with, including the mainland.

Opposition to the bill has triggered unprecedented clashes in the legislature and posed the worst political

crisis of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s leadership. The plan’s critics say it could leave

Hongkongers at risk of politically motivated prosecution.

Another pro-business party, the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA), said it supported the

rule change but wanted more clarity. “We will work to scrutinise and improve the bill in a pragmatic manner but

the prerequisite is we support it,” party leader Lo Wai-kwok said.

“We will definitely not shoot the legislation down.”

The BPA and the Liberal Party have eight and four seats respectively in the Legislative Council. The Liberal

Party did not indicate how it would vote on the bill, but previously questioned the urgency of the changes and

said it would make amendments.

Another business-friendly lawmaker and delegate to the national legislature, Michael Tien Puk-sun, said Beijing’s

stance also caught him by surprise, but that he had not made up his mind on how he would vote.

“I was prepared to debate the legality of my counterproposal, but with the latest remarks reportedly by Wang I

can’t do much,” he said, referring to his proposal to try Hongkongers locally instead of transferring them across

the border.

Wang reportedly shot down alternatives, including Tien’s, and stressed that if the mainland could not put its own

citizens on trial within its own borders, it would be tantamount to granting Hong Kong extraterritoriality.

“When the central government rejects my plan on grounds of sovereignty, I just shut up, because a definitive call

has already been made,” Michael Tien said.

A political source confirmed the government already had enough votes to pass the bill.

Lo rejected the suggestion Wang’s comments put any pressure on his party, and described the call for unity as

“something positive”. He added it was still possible to amend the current bill.

James Tien questioned why Wang did not make clear Beijing’s support for the government’s proposal months earlier

instead of allowing the issue to spiral.

Jimmy Kwok Chun-wah, chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, stressed local businesses felt

amendments were necessary. “We believe there are ways to deal with concerns over the mainland system, or for the

government to clarify more,” he said, referring to what he called dubious practices on the mainland. “We believe

the central government wants to improve the business environment, instead of going back to a historical problem.”

The government was under increasing pressure to skip clause-by-clause scrutiny of the bill, after rival camps in

Legco could not resolve the procedural disputes on it. The radical move, however, was so controversial some proestablishment

lawmakers were openly against it.

Legco’s House Committee collected lawmakers’ views on the way forward by Tuesday afternoon. The government,

according to sources, would still receive most of its allies’ support to leapfrog the scrutiny stage and present

the bill directly at full council.

Two pro-establishment lawmakers from functional constituencies, Tony Tse Wai-chuen and Ma Fung-kwok, faced

pressure from their electorates to oppose the bill. Tse yesterday shrugged off calls from 400 architects and

surveyors to conduct a proper consultation before voting.

The head of the city’s Catholic community, Cardinal John Tong Hon, called on government to “listen to different

views” and “truly defend the personal safety and freedom of the citizens”.

Media > SCMP > Falling windows ‘not uncommon’

Falling windows ‘not uncommon’

Minister reveals 216 reports received between 2016 and 2018 of incidents involving older buildings
A falling hotel window that killed a young woman in the city last month was not a freak occurrence, with a
government minister revealing yesterday that a pane had fallen every five days on average for the past three
years.
Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun reported the figure to the Legislative Council, adding that about
59,000 notices ordering building owners to inspect their windows had been ignored, at least one of them for six
years.
Last month, a 24-year-old woman from the mainland was killed by a window that fell from a 16th-floor hotel room
at The Mira Hong Kong in the busy shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui, adding urgency to the issue of window
safety.
In a written reply to architectural sector lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen, Wong said that between 2016 and 2018,
the Buildings Department received 216 reports of falling windows involving private buildings aged 10 years or
older. But he said the department did not keep figures on related casualties.
Private blocks aged more than 10 years fall under a mandatory window inspection scheme launched in 2012. And Wong
said about 59,000 – or 12 per cent – of 500,000 notices sent out to 9,843 buildings had not been complied with.
The statutory notices require the owner to appoint a qualified person to inspect the windows and supervise
repairs if needed.
“Among the non-compliant cases, the longest overdue period is about six years,” Wong said.
In response to the non-compliant cases, the Buildings Department had issued 3,700 fixed penalty notices for a
fine of HK$1,500.
Wong said the Buildings Department had exercised its statutory authority on behalf of the owners of more than 70
buildings to carry out inspection and repair of windows in the common parts of their buildings.
“Up to now, the Buildings Department has not instigated any prosecution for non- compliant notices, but is
planning to instigate prosecution actions against the more blatant cases,” Wong said.
Police arrested a hotel worker in connection with last month’s fatal incident. The female cleaner had been
granted bail as officers needed more time to look into maintenance records and gather evidence.
Anyone who drops an object or allows it to fall, causing danger or injury to a person in or near a public place
is liable to a fine of HK$10,000 and six months in jail.
If the falling object causes injury or death, the victim or their family members may also claim compensation
against the owner through civil proceedings.
The mandatory window inspection scheme was introduced in 2012 after a spate of window-falling incidents more than
a decade ago that heightened concerns over the dangers of ageing buildings to public safety.

Media > The Standard > Fresh footbridge tender after initial cost shock

Fresh footbridge tender after initial cost shock

There will be a fresh tender to redetermine the cost of a Yuen Long footbridge that initially cost a staggering

HK$1.7 billion to the shock of the public.

The 540-meter elevated footbridge will be connected to Long Ping Station.

“We intend to initiate parallel tendering to weigh in on the latest market prices for an accurate estimation of

the cost before seeking the Finance Committee’s approval for funding,” the Transport and Housing Bureau wrote

in a letter addressed to the Legislative Council.

“Upon obtaining an accurate estimate of the cost, they will submit a funding application to the Finance

Committee for consideration.”

The government was scheduled to table a funding request to Legco in October, but withdrew the item following

widespread criticism.

It was then discussed and endorsed in meetings at the Public Works Subcommittee of the Finance Committee on May

23 and 26 last year.

In the letter, the bureau said tenderers will also be asked to come up with enhanced and more cost-effective

designs.

“We will incorporate the requirements as listed in the tender documents to invite tenderers to propose costeffective

construction methods,” it said.

“We would also encourage tenderers to submit innovative proposals to enhance the aesthetics of the proposed

elevated pedestrian corridor and its integration with its current environment.”

The bureau said it understands that the community has concerns over the costs and how the proposal may

integrate itself with streetscape improvements, the surrounding environment and the landscape.

“We have holistically reviewed the case and reaffirmed the necessity to construct the elevated pedestrian

corridor in an attempt to alleviate pedestrian congestion and potential safety hazards in Yuen Long town

center,” it said.

Lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen of the architectural and surveying sector, said yesterday that the government

developing the project through tendering, to a certain extent, has responded to the views of the community and

of the surveying and planning sector.

Tse said he will correspond closely with the developers and continue to maintain communications with different

associations in the sector.

He said his vote will eventually depend on the result of parallel tendering, including whether it could lower

the costs of building the bridge and whether it could lower the impact on the environment, the ventilation of

the corridor and the city space.

Column > SCMP > Police acton missing papers in rail scandal

Police acton missing papers in rail scandal

Documents removed and computer records examined during Hung Hom station search

Police have investigated the troubled Hung Hom station two days in a row under a search warrant after receiving

another government report over problems with the city’s costliest rail project.

Officers were yesterday seen leaving the station with piles of documents while experts were on the scene to

examine computer records. Police received the Highways Department report on the eve of Lunar New Year.

“With the search warrant issued by the court, we collected a lot of papers and will read through them to

investigate the allegation of missing inspection documents,” a police source said.

“Officers from the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau were also there to look at digital footprints.”

The scandal deepened after it emerged the main contractor had failed to submit more than 60 per cent of

inspection papers for work on Hung Hom station, one of the stops along the HK$97.1 billion Sha Tin-Central link.

After the three-day holiday, police went to the office tower of the station to collect evidence on Friday night,

and spent another eight hours there yesterday.

A spokesman said the case was being handled by the regional crime unit of West Kowloon and no one had been

arrested.

The rail link construction has been embroiled in controversy since allegations surfaced last May that workers had

shortened reinforcement steel bars to cut corners. Transport officials had also called in police to investigate

that case.

Separately, lawmakers urged authorities to fix management and governance problems at the MTR Corporation, the

city’s rail giant and operator of the link.

On a radio programme yesterday, architectural sector lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen said the MTR Corp was

“bankrupt” in its responsibility as a regulator of its infrastructure projects.

“The whole system of the MTR Corp has to be reviewed, particularly regarding the role of the board of directors,”

he said, adding that part of the board was appointed by the government, a majority shareholder of the firm.

On the same show, Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan urged her pro-establishment colleagues to back her motion to

invoke the Legislative Council’s special powers to investigate the case.

But engineering sector lawmaker Lo Wai-kwok dismissed her call, saying it was better to leave the job to the

commission of inquiry led by former judge Michael Hartmann.

Media > The Standard > Queuing system seen as fix in race for homes

Queuing system seen as fix in race for homes

A queuing system should be established for people who apply to buy subsidized housing, architecture-sector lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen said.

Under the current system, eligible candidates need to enter a lottery to determine their priority to buy and choose flats.

Due to oversubscription, many people repeatedly failed to get a flat and had to go through the monotonous application procedure and lottery process year after year.

Yesterday, Tse called on the government to study the feasibility of establishing a waiting list mechanism for applications regarding public housing so as “to ignite the hopes” of persistent applicants.

He also suggested banning all newly-built subsidized housing from being resold to the private sector in order to ensure people don’t tout the flats for money.

Instead, subsidized flat owners should be made to sell the properties back to the government or Housing Authority at a price that is equal to the sum of the original selling price and the percentage increase of property prices, he said.

He also recommended lowering the maximum income limit for the Starter Homes Scheme and to relaunch the Sandwich Class Housing Scheme introduced by the colonial government.

These measures will help middle-class families with monthly incomes between HK$74,100 and HK$93,000 to buy flats, he said.

He said his suggestions are not aimed at bringing down the private property market, as it would adversely affect people if it were to collapse.

“If the government can help those who don’t have enough money to buy homes in the private property market, that would be a big motivation for society,” he said.

To alleviate the financial burden of those who have to rent in private housing estates, Tse urged the government to grant them tax allowances capped at HK$100,000 per person annually.

When asked about his estimation of the surplus for the upcoming budget next month, Tse said he expects it to be slightly more than HK$40 billion.

However, he also believes that “the sweeteners will not be very sweet.”

The government’s income mainly stems from land sales and property tax, but the former failed to meet expectations last year, he said.

Despite this, he hopes the government will lend a helping hand to citizens while it still has a surplus.

Media > 香港電台 > (EN) Letter to Hong Kong Lantau Tomorrow

(EN) Letter to Hong Kong Lantau Tomorrow

Hello, Young Men and Young Ladies of Hong Kong,

The new Policy Address has advanced a vision of “Lantau Tomorrow”. It is proposed to reclaim the waters around Kau Yi Chau and Hei Ling Chau by phases, into a number of man-made islands, totalling some 1,700 hectares for building some 400,000 housing units capable of accommodating a population of up to 1.1 million. It has sparked off heated debates. Some supported the reclamation as a means to tackle the acute housing problem, whilst others disagreed or queried that the proposed reclamations would adversely affect the environment and eco-system, and the project would exhaust our financial resources. They consider that 1,700 hectares are unduly excessive, and that instead of relying on such a remote project the Government should maximise the use of existing land and carry out short- and medium-term measures to cope with the imminent land and housing problems.

In fact, the Policy Address has also proposed a number of short- and medium-term proposals to increase the supply of land and housing, some of which are in line with my proposals in my election platform. They include : adjusting the proportion of public and private housing on new land to 7:3, increasing the supply of transitional housing through various means, accelerating the redevelopment of Civil Servants co-operative housings, expediting studies on the development of brownfield sites, initiating a “Land Sharing Pilot Scheme” to make good use of privately owned agricultural land in the NT, re-launching the policy of revitalization of industrial buildings, and streamlining of development proposal processing procedures, etc.

Nevertheless, the density of development on existing sites in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon can obviously not be increased much more, encroachment into Country Parks would also evoke many oppositions. Development on agricultural land and “brown-field” sites in the NT would both have to deal with complex problems of the environment and ecology, land resumption, clearance and ex-gratia compensations and resettlement of existing users, households, businesses and even the ancestral graves of indigenous villagers. If the Government cannot handle these matters properly, it will be alleged for colluding with developers and the villagers.

Looking at the cases of the development of Northeast New Territories and Wang Chau, and whether the Fanling Golf Club site should be resumed for housing development, it could be seen that the time, cost and controversies involved in the development on existing land will not be less than development on reclamations. On the contrary, in principle reclamation does not involve land resumption, demolition and resettlement issues, and the land is flat and relatively easy to plan. Moreover, as the reclaimed land will all be Government land, there will be no collusion between the Government and the private sector. The sales of the sites for private housing, industrial and commercial uses would also bring to the Treasury significant revenues, which would off-set some, if not totally, of the costs of the reclamation and infrastructure works.

Some people quickly jumped on the “Lantau Tomorrow” vision on the internet by exaggerating that the reclamation would only be sufficient to meet the needs of the new immigrants. The criticism was echoed by some young people. In fact, we could examine from another perspective the questions as to whether there is a need for building artificial islands and whether the reclamations are excessive.

Much to the envy of the people of Hong Kong, the Singaporean Government has recently issued guidelines to stipulate that the average unit size of new private residential developments should not be less than 915 square feet. The current median per capita living space in Hong Kong is only 161 square feet, barely half of that in Singapore. I believe that all Hong Kong people, especially the young people, hope to have a little more living space in the future.

If the population of Hong Kong were frozen at the existing level of 7.4 million without any growth, an increase in the per capita living space by 50 square feet alone, and at a plot ratio of 6, will need 617 hectares of land. Adding on the land for the provision of transportation infrastructure, community services, open space, industrial and commercial facilities etc., about 2,000 hectares of land will be required. Is the Government’s proposal of reclaiming 1,700 hectares a very excessive proposal?

Is a reclamation area of 1,000 hectares, 1,700 hectares or 2,000 hectares considered to be adequate? What are the percentages of the land used for residential development, infrastructures, community facilities, open space and industrial and commercial uses? How to balance environmental conservation needs and cope with the impacts of extreme weather? To answer these complex and technical questions, it would certainly require an independent, professional, objective and in-depth planning and study, so that everyone could make their choices in a reasonable and rational manner.

I have turned 64 just a few days ago, and I will be eligible to apply for my Senior Citizen Card soon. The “Tomorrow” in the “Lantau Tomorrow” Vision belongs to you. I hope that everyone will cherish this “Vision” and support the Government in carrying out the above planning studies as soon as possible.

Yours faithfully,

TONY

Media > China Daily > Lawmaker: Lantau reclamation to create new opportunities

Lawmaker: Lantau reclamation to create new opportunities

Tony Tse calls for feasibility study to be conducted

By joseph Li in Hong Kong – joseph@chinadailyhk.com

The government’s Lantau Tomorrow Vision reclamation plan can produce massive amounts of land not only for residential use, but also commercial development, hospitals, university dormitories, sports and recreation facilities, said a lawmaker representing the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape sector.

Tony Tse Wai-chuen said Hong Kong faced a severe shortage of all types of lands — with land for housing being the most critical.

He believes that if the reclamation plan is implemented, the reclaimed site, which is in the central waters between Hong Kong Island and Lantau Island, will be tantamount to a new Hong Kong Island — in terms of area and population. This is because it could accommodate about 1 million people while improving the living conditions of Hong Kong citizens.

Tse said Lantau is a suitable location for reclamation, adding that there is no need to worry about costs. The government will likely recover the most of the cost for reclamation and infrastructure projects from land auctions.

In an exclusive interview with China Daily, he urged Hong Kong people to support the reclamation plan and not oppose it from the start.“Land supply via reclamation from the sea is more effective than such other means as leveling the mountains and slopes,” ventured Tse, who is an estate surveyor.

Meanwhile, the scale of the proposed 1,700-hectare reclamation is not too big, Tse argued, stressing that there is no problem in reclaiming more land. This is because — apart from addressing immediate needs — it is necessary to reserve land in the land bank for future development.

“To increase the supply of land via reclamation will have the least effect on the surroundings, buildings and the people. Remember when the Mass Transit Railway system was built in Kowloon in the 1980s, road traffic and many buildings in Nathan Road were seriously affected while compensation was given to residents and shopowners,” explained Tse.

Local tycoon Gordon Wu Ying-sheung, who some 30 years ago proposed a bridge linking Hong Kong, Macao and Zhuhai, recently said that a reclamation plan of 1,700 hectares was not big enough.

Wu said the government should reclaim more land from the sea. Our Hong Kong Foundation, a think tank chaired by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, proposes a reclamation plan of 2,200 hectares.

Discussing reclamation costs recently, Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun referred to the Tung Chung reclamation project — which is about HK$1,500 per square feet.

“The cost for the Lantau reclamation will therefore be over HK$250 billion, increasing to around HK$500 billion of total costs after infrastructure facilities (such as roads, water and power supplies) are included. For instance, the third runway project at Hong Kong International Airport will cost HK$141.5 billion.” Tse said.

He believes the reclamation cost is not a monstrous figure if it is divided over five or six years, and after reclamation the reclaimed sites will be very valuable.

“They will be treated as urban sites but not rural sites or sites on outlying islands. Look at the Kai Tak development zone (which housed the old airport), the land there is so expensive at HK$10,000 per square foot,” he predicted.

New opportunities

The reclaimed land will be a premium site for residential and commercial development. Tony Tse said he is confident the property developers will be very keen to bid for the sites — then the total cost of HK$500 billion can easily be recovered.

The government should appoint a consultant to carry out a feasibility study for this large-scale reclamation project. It could examine its suitability, scale of reclamation, cost implications and financial arrangements — as well as the future impact on the economy and development of Hong Kong, Tse said.

He believes the government will apply to the Legislative Council for the funding of consultancy fee in the first quarter of 2019. The feasibility study may take at least a year or two to complete.

“I hope the reclamation work will commence within Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s tenure before July 2022; I think she has a similar wish,” he said.

Tse, an experienced surveyor, dismissed what he calls inaccurate, exaggerated reclamation cost estimate of HK$1 trillion — an enormous amount that would empty the government coffers.

“I don’t know how they come up with such a calculation,” he said.

“Their claim that the reclamation plan would cost huge sums of money and will exhaust the treasury is unsubstantiated and contains groundless, isolated information.

“Still, they are blind to the fact that the government would reap considerable revenue from selling the sites. If they insist that it will cost HK$1 trillion, they should produce relevant financial data and analysis to back their claims,’’ he added.

“Not only are these people misleading society, they are also harming our citizens because they don’t want the people of Hong Kong to live in better conditions,” Tse said.

Tse believes such people always apply double standards, talking about one thing yet doing another. Very often, they blame the government for not doing enough to increase land supply and building more homes, but now they obstruct the government’s reclamation plan.

He said the Lantau reclamation plan will also provide new opportunities for the development of Hong Kong, as it is very close to the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, at a time when the development of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon is saturated.

“With a greater role to play in the Pearl River Delta region, Hong Kong will make a bigger impact, become more influential and not be marginalized by the rest of the region,” he concluded.

Media > China Daily > (EN) ‘Pan-democrats’ not showing good manners, respect, Tse says

(EN) ‘Pan-democrats’ not showing good manners, respect, Tse says

Some lawmakers in the opposition camp remain troublemakers who do not abide by the rules as they have always been, said Tony Tse Wai-chuen, who has returned to the Legislative Council after a two-year absence via a by-election in March.

Discussing his impressions more half a year after his return, Tse said: “Individual ‘pan-democrats’ are continuing to make troubles like before because it is their role.

“On the whole, the opposition lawmakers do not show enough respect to the president of the Legislative Council and the chief executive. When she delivered her Policy Address on Oct 10, the ‘pan-democrats’ did not stand up when she arrived or when she left.”

Tse said this showed they lacked good manners. “Even though you don’t like them, you should show respect because of the official capacities they are holding,” he commented.

“You don’t have to agree with the government all the time. If you disagree, you should put up your argument in a constructive manner, striving to convince the government officials to accept your suggestions, instead of verbally abusing people who hold different views from you,” Tse added.

Talking about funding for the Lantau reclamation plan, Tse is sure that the opposition camp will obstruct and filibuster at meetings of the Finance Committee to delay the funding. Yet since the Finance Committee Procedure has been amended, the new version enables the committee chairman to exercise his powers to tackle disruptive behavior and proceed with the meeting more efficiently.

He described the “pan-democrats” in soccer terms: “They are always moving the goal posts to create an argument suitable to their own political convenience.” He also agrees with the observation that the ‘pan-democrats’ are “unsporting losers” because if they find they cannot win, they will cause troubles and abandon the game.

“Since the majority of the government’s funding proposals are more detailed and better prepared than before while officials answer questions well, this makes it more difficult for the opposition to find faults with and delay the proposals,” he said.

But Tse admitted some officials did not do a good job as they answered questions in a circuitous style. He suggested that officials should prepare well, tell the facts and respond in a straightforward manner. If they are not direct with their answers, people will think they are hiding something.

“For technical officials like architects and engineers, they should answer questions in layman’s terms so that everybody understands. If ordinary citizens also understand, they will easily find out whether the ‘pan-democrats’ are unreasonable and are filibustering,” he said.

Tse was first elected a lawmaker in the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape constituency for the legislative term from 2012 to 2016. He lost in the 2016 general election by a small margin, due to the fact he and another pro-establishment candidate were both competing, leaving the other “pan-democratic” candidate to fish in troubled waters and clinch the seat by surprise from a three-horse race.

Since the elected candidate failed to subsequently take a proper LegCo oath, he was stripped off the seat after holding it for less than a year’s time, together with five other people who had not complied with the oath legislation when they were sworn in.

A by-election was arranged on March 11 this year to fill four out of the six vacant LegCo seats, with Tse the surveyor winning and securing a comeback to LegCo.

joseph@chinadailyhk.com

(HK Edition 11/01/2018 page4)