New details have emerged on the land purchase controversy involving Anita Lam, assistant director of Hong Kong’s Lands Department, Ming Pao Daily News reported Monday.
Lam had come under fire for conflict of interest after she bought some land in Kam Tin, Yuen Long. The official, along with her surveyor husband, purchased farmland measuring 8,000 square meters with the knowledge that the property will be drafted for development work in the future, critics have said.
A former landlord Chow Ka-shing has now come forth to reveal that he had planned to use the site in question to set up a Hong Kong branch of the Wudang Taoist Association, in order to promote Taoism and Tai Chi martial arts, Ming Pao said.
However, the plan was shelved since the Lands Department only approved a constructible area of around 3,500 square feet, which was considered insufficient by the Wudang Taoist Association.
The landlord now says he will consider launching a lawsuit against the department as he had learnt that the authority had in July this year approved a constructible area of over 7,000 square feet to current owner Anita Lam.
In early August, the Lands Department announced that Lam will no longer supervise the lands planning of Yuen Long area, after the alleged conflict of interest made media headlines.
Li Shuangxin, secretary to Wudang Taoist Association chairman, said the association has launched a branch in Singapore with huge success, and was therefore keen to set up an outlet in Hong Kong.
Li admitted that the association did consider using the Yuen Long site for such purpose but had to give up as the approved constructible area was too small. If given the chance, the association will be happy to go ahead with that plan again, given the enlarged constructible area, he said.
According to government records, Anita Lam acquired the plot in question for HK$18.8 million in April 2012, while she received official approval to build up to four buildings covering total area of 7,840 square feet on the plot.
The Lands Department had earlier in 2009 requested Chow to trim the constructible area from 5,200 square feet to 3,480 square feet, in order to be compliant with relevant regulations. However, it later allowed Lam to raise the constructible area of the same plot to 7,840 square feet.
Legislator Chan Ka-lok said it is obvious that the Lands Department adopted double standards in approving the applications from Chow Ka-shing and Anita Lam. The incident shows that there are serious problems within the department’s operation, he said.
Chow, who was born in Wuhan and owns a property development company in Shenzhen, migrated to Hong Kong in 2006. Chow said it was the first time he purchased a plot in Hong Kong, but the experience had turned out to be very unpleasant, and a huge lesson for him.
Lam must be fully aware of the value of the plot as the site was within her areas of supervision, Chow said. “Even officials in mainland China would not dare to blatantly purchase the plot using their own names,” Chow remarked.
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