Leighton (Asia), the main contractor involved in MTR Corporation’s Hung Hom station expansion project, has been engaging in behind-the-scenes lobbying with lawmakers in a bid to get them on its side after a scandal related to shoddy construction work.
The company has contacted several legislators and invited them to private meetings, possibly to explain its point of view regarding the works controversy.
Among the lawmakers who were contacted was Michael Tien, who heads the Legislative Council’s railways sub-committee and who has been a severe critic of the contractor.
Tien confirmed Thursday that Leighton had invited him for a meeting, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The invitation was extended via a public relations firm operated by Andy Ho On-tat, who had once served as information coordinator in the Office of the Chief Executive.
According to Tien, he had said he would attend the meeting only on some conditions: that he would record the discussion, which he would make public later, and that Leighton officials join Friday’s special meeting of the Legco railway panel.
The conditions were apparently unacceptable to Leighton as its representatives didn’t revert to Tien.
Meanwhile, the lawmaker learnt that Leighton had notified the LegCo secretariat that it won’t attend the railway committee’s special meeting.
Another lawmaker who was targeted for lobbying was Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee.
Ip, who is chairperson of the New People’s Party, said she declined an offer to meet up with a senior Leighton executive.
The construction firm should explain in public if it wants to make its case regarding the Hung Hom works controversy, rather than approach individual lawmakers, she said.
Lam Cheuk-ting of the Democratic Party is another person who is said to have rejected an invitation, citing the same reason.
So far, only two lawmakers — Lo Wai-kwok from the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, and Civic Party’s Tanya Chan — are believed to have accepted offers for meetings with Leighton executives.
Tanya Chan said she agreed to a meeting as she would like to pose some questions to the construction firm on behalf of the public.
But she said she will leave immediately if the contractor demands any confidentiality agreement or impose other conditions for the meeting.
Chan’s meeting had been scheduled for Thursday afternoon, but was later rearranged to next week.
Lo, who represents the engineering constituency, admitted he had met with the company earlier and said communicating with the industry is a usual practice.
The discussion did not touch upon details of the Hung Hom station work, he said, but added that the contractor assured him that it has strict standards in relation to monitoring work quality.
He also cited the contractor as saying that it had provided sufficient information to MTR in a work report.
According to Lo, he told the company to face the public, warning it that failure to do so could dent its image.
At the same time, the lawmaker said he acknowledges the company’s right to follow its corporate policy regarding public communications.