Media > The Standard > Traffic jams return as tunnel reopens

Traffic jams return as tunnel reopens

Traffic jams appeared as usual when the Cross Harbour Tunnel reopened after a two-week shutdown due to clashes.
All four lanes of the tunnel opened at 5am yesterday as riot police stood on guard.
Plastic barriers and nets were put up at pedestrian bridges to prevent objects being thrown onto the lanes.
Cross-harbor bus services returned to normal after two weeks of diversions that forced drivers to use the two
other harbor crossings. But the morning saw fewer passengers and buses were seen waiting for commuters.
A passenger working in Causeway Bay said it took her 30 minutes longer to get to work from Tai Wai when the
tunnel was closed. “But on the first day [of reopening]” I felt the air here was not clean,” she said.
Another passenger heading to Fortress Hill from Sha Tin was making her transfer to another bus at Hung Hom. She
said “the smell is really bad. I put my face mask on immediately.”
The electronic payment system has not been completely repaired so motorists cannot use credit cards to pay for
the tolls, but they can use Octopus cards.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said tunnel users would have to pay tolls because the damaged booths
had been repaired. He also said it took 800 workers around 100 hours to repair the tunnel.
A resident said he worried that there would be traffic jams yesterday, so he left home early to catch the bus.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen urged the government to consider alternative cross-harbor
options, including the construction of a fourth tunnel.
Tse said people paid more in transportation costs during the time the tunnel was closed, so the government
should compensate them by cutting public transport fees by half for the next three months.
The free ferry services between Hung Hom or Kowloon City and Wan Chai will end tomorrow evening.
Pro-establishment legislator Ben Chan Han-pan called on the government to continue running the two free ferry
lines, which helped residents during the shutdown.
Chan said the government should also add a regular route between Tsuen Wan and Central, allowing residents to
have an alternative mode of transport.
The tunnel had been closed since November 13 after radical protesters torched it and set up roadblocks during
clashes with police.

Media > The Standard > Sinkhole forms at cultural hub

Sinkhole forms at cultural hub

A sinkhole 25 meters in diameter caused by a leaking cofferdam wall formed at a West Kowloon Cultural District
construction site, submerging temporary offices.
The WKCD Authority confirmed there was a sinkhole at the construction site of the Lyric Theatre yesterday after
web users posted pictures of tilted temporary offices, construction equipment immersed in water and plastic
barriers sinking into the ground.
“The pipe-pile cofferdam wall sprung a leak at the southeast corner in the early morning, leading to floods up
to two meters in depth in the excavated site,” it said.
“As a result of this breach to the cofferdam, a shallow sinkhole of around 25 meters in diameter emerged
adjacent to the site within the project area.”
It said action was taken by contractor Gammon Construction and the leak stopped at around 9.30am yesterday.
“The authority and Gammon are closely monitoring the situation,” it added.
It said there were no safety issues or injuries resulting from the sinkhole and the works in other areas of the
site were unaffected. The Buildings Department was informed.
An engineer, Albert Lai Kwong-tak, said a large-scale sinkhole is serious and unusual. Lai said a collapse would
have shown prior warnings and that the sinkhole may have caused a loss of sludge due to construction work.
Lai believes the floods happened because the cofferdam wall was not strong enough to withstand the soil
pressure.
The authority could have underestimated the soil pressure around the area, or the complexity of the geological
environment of the land, he said.
“It is possible to stop it if it is just a leak. But from the photos, this is obviously a one-off large-scale
rush of water.”
Lai added that the incident may affect nearby MTR railway structures due to a shift or a loss of soil and being
underwater.
After preliminary investigation of the area near railway premises and facilities, the MTR Corp said it believes
the incident has not affected the structural safety of Kowloon Station. But it would still conduct a full
investigation.
Tony Tse Wai-chuen, legislator for the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape sector, believes that
even though the flooding and sinkhole suddenly occurred, there must have been small leaks or slight settlement
before.
Due to the large excavation area and the presence of other development projects nearby – including the highspeed
railway and Airport Express – the authority should hire land surveyors to monitor the site.
Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan Suk-chong said this was not the first time this site had problems, as
construction works had been suspended due to water ingress from the pipe-pile walls last year.
She said the incident shows that construction there is not safe and urged the government to survey the area
again before continuing to build the remaining basement. The theater is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

Media > SCMP > Scepticism greets plan for police panel

Scepticism greets plan for police panel

Critics say an independent inquiry is necessary to ensure a fair investigation into protest clashes
The police watchdog’s plan to set up a special panel to look into the clashes during the extradition bill
protests has been met with scepticism, with critics sayingan independent inquiry is necessary to ensure a fair and
comprehensive investigation.
Critics yesterday said they had no faith in the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) because it was made
of up many pro-government or conservative figures, and was not as independent as its name suggests.
They said the council also would lack the power to summon witnesses, unlike an independent inquiry, often chaired
by a judge, which is within the legal power of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to launch.
“The government has kept saying there is an established mechanism that handles complaints against the police, and
that it has been working well. But you need to look at who are the members of the IPCC now,” said lawmaker Kenneth
Leung, formerly an IPCC member from 2010 to 2016.
He said the government used to allow liberal members in the IPCC, such as legal academic Eric Cheung Tat-ming,
but not any more.
Yesterday, the IPCC confirmed its chairman, Anthony Neoh, had recommended to members of the watchdog that a
“study” be undertaken into the clashes.
“As internal consultations are still taking place, and the website is being revamped to facilitate the proposed
study, the IPCC aims to give a full account of what it proposes to do in the near future,” the IPCC said in a
statement.
Tony Tse Wai-chuen, an IPCC vice-chairman, backed the creation of a special panel under the watchdog, and hoped
it could be formed as soon as possible.
Earlier this month, the police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and beanbag rounds at protesters opposed to the
extradition bill.
On Wednesday, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, and Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu, shrugged off
calls by British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, as well as local religious and political leaders, to set up an
official inquiry into the confrontations on June 12.
Cheung said the IPCC, a statutory body, was already a “well-tried” mechanism for handling complaints against the
police.
The watchdog has often been criticised as a toothless tiger because its power is limited. It is tasked to review
investigation reports from the Complaints Against Police Office, a police division, before agreeing, disagreeing
or rejecting the reports.
But a source said the IPCC would now make use of a section under the Independent Police Complaints Council Ordinance to set up the panel that gives it more power.
Under that section, one function of the watchdog is to “identify any fault or deficiency in any practice or
procedure adopted by the police force that has led to or might lead to reportable complaints”. Another function is
to make recommendations to the police commissioner and the city’s leader.
In 2011, the watchdog used the section to investigate the police’s security arrangements during then vice-premier
Li Keqiang’s visit to Hong Kong. In a 63-page report, it called on the force to review its security measures to
ensure a balance between security requirements and the rights of the citizens.
In 2009, the IPCC also used the section of the law to examine the police’s action of stopping five vehicles to
form a roadblock to stop illegal racing cars.
But Leung said an independent inquiry was important because it could look at not just the clashes between
officers and the protesters, but the overall police planning and how the force communicated with protest
organisers.
A statement by eight former political appointees, including former labour and welfare minister Stephen Sui Waikeung,
also called for an independent inquiry, to be chaired by a senior judge.

Media > The Standard > More parking for tour buses

More parking for tour buses

More than 100 additional public parking spaces for tour coaches will be ready by 2020, said Secretary for
Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan.
Lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen said the lack of public parking space for tour coaches has led to the prevalence
of illegal parking in tourist-heavy districts like Kowloon City and Tsim Sha Tsui.
In a written reply to Tse, Chan said the transport department has planned to provide additional parking spaces
in a year.
Chan stated that the principle of “single site, multiple uses” is used to accommodate more parking spaces in
suitable “government, institution or community” facilities, public open space projects and public housing
developments.
Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said 100 additional parking spaces will not be adequate to solve the current
shortage. Building parking lots specifically for tourist coaches will be a better fix in the long run, he said.
Yiu said opening up parking fields in rural areas with more accessible routes to the city will also help.
School buses may be parked inside schools’ covered playgrounds at night to ease the inadequate number of parking
spaces for commercial vehicles, he suggested: “However, it depends on whether or not the schools have that
availability. It can hardly be a generalized solution.”

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.