Pan-democrat lawmakers branded Secretary for Development Paul Chan as a cheapskate after he opted to support a more economical proposal to preserve the ancient relics unearthed at the To Kwa Wan station site of the Sha Tin to Central Link, the Apple Daily reported Tuesday.
Chan has supported the proposal to relocate the Song and Yuan Dynasty relics, which would only cost HK$10 million (US$1.29 million), as opposed to retaining them at the site where they were found, wich would cost HK$1.3 billion.
At a Legislative Council meeting on Monday, the pan-democrats said the government is only willing to spend big on infrastructure projects while being so stingy on preserving historical monuments and priceless relics of Hong Kong’s past.
They also accused MTR Corporation of exaggerating the difference in the cost of the two proposals in an attempt to lure public support for the cheaper option.
Claudio Mo of the Civic Party asked MTR to submit detailed breakdowns of its cost estimations, but the rail operator could not immediately comply.
Neo Democrats lawmaker Gary Fan said the total cost of retaining all the historical relics at their original sites was estimated at HK$2.3 billion, which is only around 3 percent of the HK$80 billion budget for the entire Sha Tin to Central Link project.
Michael Tien of the New People’s Party said he would support the relocation proposal for its substantially lower cost, and asked why the government proposed up to four options which only sparked public debates.
Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan reprimanded Chan for revealing his preferred option for the To Kwa Wan relics, saying it was an attempt to finalize the decision on behalf of the government.
Chan Kam-lam of the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong said “people should not overreact to the unveiling of monuments as if it was such a big deal”.
The Antiquities and Monuments Office will conduct another site visit on Wednesday and hold further discussions before making recommendations to the government, which is expected to make a ruling by early December.
Undersecretary for Transport and Housing Yau Shing-mu said the government will shoulder the additional expenses related to archaeological work at the site.
When asked if MTR Corp. was at fault after more relics were found during the construction phase, Yau said the government will have to review the rail operator’s performance.
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