Date
20 July 2018
The opposition camp failed to get funding blocked for two controversial civic works projects, including a musical fountain, as establishment lawmakers prevailed during a Legco panel vote Wednesday. Photo: Bloomberg
The opposition camp failed to get funding blocked for two controversial civic works projects, including a musical fountain, as establishment lawmakers prevailed during a Legco panel vote Wednesday. Photo: Bloomberg

Legco panel clears funding for two controversial civic projects

The Legislative Council’s Public Works Subcommittee (PWSC) has approved funding proposals for two controversial projects despite attempts by pro-democracy lawmakers to adjourn the debate.

The Legco panel on Wednesday cleared the projects that will cost over HK$180 million (US$22.9 million) and which the opposition lawmakers have described as “white elephants”, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The two projects in question are a musical fountain in Kwun Tong, which is expected to cost around HK$50 million, and an activities center at Moreton Terrace in Causeway Bay, a plan that comes with a price tag of HK$130 million.

The two projects were passed with 22 members of the PWSC panel voting in favor and 16 opposing.

The works were part of the government’s “Signature Projects” scheme launched by former chief executive Leung Chun-ying in 2013 under which each of Hong Kong’s 18 districts would be allocated a grant of HK$100 million to pay for major community and infrastructure works in their districts.

Due to objections raised by pan-democrats and some district members, the government failed to get the PWSC’s approval for the fountain in 2015.

And the two proposals were vetoed in the last public works subcommittee meeting held in June this year, thanks to many abstentions from the establishment camp.

Last week, officials tabled the proposals again after making minor adjustments, such as changing the fountain into a “recreational water basin” in the project. In response to that, lawmaker Gary Fan from the pan-democratic camp led an adjournment motion to suspend the debate.

As the discussion resumed on Wednesday, Fan accused the Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah and the subcommittee chairman Lo Wai-kwok of “cheating”, arguing that the proposals were allowed to be tabled again without any major amendments even though the project was vetoed a month ago.

He criticized Lau and Lo, saying they disrespected the work of the subcommittee as the funding motion had been voted down twice.

The projects are the “messy remains” of the Signature Project Scheme of the Leung Chun-ying administration, said lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai from Civic Passion.

The projects won’t be of any real use for the local residents, said Cheng, adding that minor modifications will not add any merit to the proposals.

Fernando Cheung from the Labour Party said the government should prioritize the needs of the locals and not just undertake showpiece works that don’t offer any real benefit.

Democrat lawmakers, including Au Nok-hin, Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, had proposed eight motions to delay or suspend the funding, but the motions were all defeated by the establishment camp.

During the Wednesday meeting, the government reportedly sent executive officers, referred to by some lawmakers as “paparazzi”, to keep track of legislators’ whereabouts and ensure sufficient pro-government votes.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 11

Translation by Kelvin Ng with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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