The approval of a new design for the Lam Tsuen Wishing Square has come under media spotlight, with a web of interests between the district councillors who passed the project, but did not declare their interests.

The new design, dubbed a replica of Tiananmen Square by netizens, is part of a HK$50 million plan to improve Lam Tsuen’s facilities undertaken by the Tai Po District Council.

Former ICAC investigator Lam Cheuk-ting told Apple Daily that district councillor Li Kwok-ying was in a conflict of interest, as he rented the land, approved the plan to improve the square and was also picked to build and operate the new square. He said even if the company was a non-profit, it is necessary to declare directorship, or it could be an offence of misconduct in public office.

The relationship between the Tai Po district councillors.
The relationship between the Tai Po district councillors.

District councillors allegedly approving their own plans

In January 2013, district councillor Chan Siu-kuen proposed a plan to improve the Lam Tsuen Wishing Square.

Tai Po District Council’s selection working group approved the plan in February 2013. The group’s members were Cheung Hok-ming, David Ho Tai-wai, Chan Cho-leung, Li Kwok-ying, Wong Chau-pak and Wong Yung-kan.

When the Tai Po District Council requested tenders to build and operate the new square, there was only one application—which came from Tai Po Lam Tsuen Heung Educational Development Company Limited, of which Cheung Hok-ming and Li Kwok-ying were directors.

Chan Siu-kuen and David Ho of a vetting committee under the working group then approved the application in June 2014.

Li Kwok-ying and Chan Cho-leung were also directors of Lam Tsuen Wishing Square Development Limited, which rented the Lam Tsuen Wishing Square—a piece of government land—for a nominal cost of HK$1. According to Apple Daily, they did not declare their interests during the selection process.

Lam Tsuen Wishing Square, Tai Po
The proposed design of Lam Tsuen Wishing Square. Photo: Facebook.

Web of interests

It was found these district councillors were also related through private companies.

David Ho, Cheung Hok-ming and Chan Cho-leung were directors of Royal Palace Restaurant Limited.

Li Kwok-ying, Wong Chau-pak and Wong Yung-kan were directors of China Hong Kong Health Industry Holdings Limited.

Chan Cho-leung said he did own the restaurant with other district councillors, but it was now defunct, and that he only owned a small amount of shares among 20 directors. He said the business was not related to the project in Lam Tsuen, so it was not necessary to declare it.

Wong Yung-kan said the company he owns with Li Kwok-ying was registered in early 2015, and that it was a healthcare product business. He said he had not declared it because its operations have not begun.

Wong said there was no conflict of interest for Li Kwok-ying. He also said that Tai Po Lam Tsuen Heung Educational Development Company Limited is a non-profit and Li was only an honorary director.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.