Lands Department Director Thomas Chan Chung-ching said The Entertainment Corp. Ltd (TECL) fared better in terms of technical know-how and also offered a higher rental during the tender exercise for the site of the Hong Kong Observation Wheel.
The government awarded the short-term land lease to TECL based on those two merits, Chan said.
He said the government has been helping to facilitate negotiations between TECL and the former operator, Swiss AEX, to prevent the wheel from being demolished, hk01.com reports.
However, Chan refused to comment on the operational aspects of the tender, saying the Hong Kong Observation Wheel is a commercial project.
A district councilor criticized Chan’s department for failing to assess and award the lease in an appropriate manner.
He said the department could have avoided the embarrassing situation when the wheel is closed, resources are wasted and local tourism suffers.
Legislator Lau Kwok-fan from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said that although the Observation Wheel is a commercial project, it was nevertheless built on public land and served as a Hong Kong landmark.
He said the government must intervene in the ongoing row between the old and new operators as it involves the public interest.
Lau said short-term leases are unwise and the government should have foreseen there would be transition issues.
The government has been urged to overhaul its tendering procedures and improve transparency in the process.
Meanwhile, hk01.com reporters noticed that the government’s Invest Hong Kong website has removed a case study on Swiss AEX.
From archives of the deleted web page, Swiss AEX managing director Leon Snep was quoted as saying he was grateful to the government for allocating a precious land plot for the iconic project. Snep said his company spent a huge amount of resources and seven years in preparation.
AEX said a phase two project of the Observation Wheel was being planned, which would add food and beverage facilities and other amenities to the original set-up and create job opportunities.
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