Li Ka-shing-backed monastery under fire over parking chaos

November 09, 2015 14:00
A 76-meter statue of Buddha towers over Tsz Shan Monastery. It's being accused of violating the terms of its deed after turning half of a two-story car park into an events venue. Photo: Facebook

A Hong Kong monastery built with a HK$1.5 billion (HK$193.5 million) grant from tycoon Li Ka-shing is being accused of violating the terms of its deed after it converted half of a two-story car park into an events hall.

Tsz Shan Monastery, which opened in April, also slashed the daily visitor quota to 400, half of what it promised, according to Apple Daily.

It was built by Heung Hoi Ching Kok Lin Association (HHCKLA) on 500,000 square feet of greenfield land in Tai Po under a 2008 land deed.

The deed allowed HHCKLA to pay a vastly discounted price of HK$140 per square foot to the government.

Visitors have been complaining about lack of parking facilities since the monastery banned public parking, citing lack of space.

The problem worsened when the monastery turned the upper floor of a dedicated car park into an auditorium.

Critics said the change violates the terms of the deed.

It's the latest flap in the world's biggest Buddhist shrine. 

When it was first announced, the project immediately ran into fierce opposition from local residents who feared overcrowding in Tai Po.   

Sik Kwok-kwong, the late former chairman of HHCKLA, vigorously lobbied the Tai Po District Council to win approval for the plan.

Sik reportedly promised 700 to 1,000 visitors will be allowed to the monastery each day and ample parking will be provided.

Visitors would not have to stand in line at the entrance, reports said at the time.

Since its opening, however, the monastery has slashed the public quota by half.

The deed mandates at least 110 parking slots for private vehicles and 13 for coaches to transport visitors with special invitations.

An Apple Daily reporter said the reduced car park has room for just 20 private cars.

Former legislator Lee Wing-tat, who heads land monitoring group Landwatch, said the Transport Department and the Lands Department had considered cutting visitor intake and parking capacity to avoid overcrowding when the deed was drafted. 

Lee said complaints should be filed with the appropriate government department.

Monastery officials said the parking slots are not intended for the general public but for handicapped persons and seniors only.

They did not comment on whether the changes might have breached the terms of the deed.

The Tai Po District Lands Office said all parking arrangements which include prior application and approval by the monastery were approved by the Transport Department.

Completed in 2013, the monastery is dominated by a Guan Yin bronze statue, the world's tallest at 76 meters.

It has several bullet-proof rooms and chambers that can withstand an explosion, according to its contractor.

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