The Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) has decided to punish four building contractors which were involved in the construction of 11 public estates where excessive lead content was found in drinking water.

After a special meeting on Wednesday the Tender Committee of the HA decided to take regulatory action against the contractors. The HA will not consider any new works tenders submitted by them from March to September this year, involving around 18,000 subsidised housing flats.

The punished building contractors.
The punished building contractors. Photo: Flickr.

A source told Apple Daily before the meeting that they were not banned permanently as “jerry-building was not involved,” unlike the “short piling scandal” of public housing estates in Tin Shui Wai in 1999.

Wong Kwan, chairman of the Federation of Public Housing Estates, a housing concern group, told the newspaper that the decision will delay completion of the public housing flats by three to four months.

The building contractors include:

  • China State Construction Engineering (Hong Kong) Limited (China State)
  • Paul Y. General Contractors Limited (Paul Y General)
  • Shui On Building Contractors Limited (Shui On)
  • Yau Lee Construction Company Limited (Yau Lee)
  • China Overseas Building Construction Limited
  • Paul Y. Construction Company, Limited

The latter two are companies related to China State and Paul Y General respectively.

The committee has also decided to remove China State, Shui On and Yau Lee from the HA’s ‘Premier League of contractors’, effective on Thursday.

This would mean the contractors can only built up to 15,000 flats for a project even if they were awarded tenders in the future — 3,000 less than the number they were allowed to previously — which means they will make less in the long run.

Kai Ching Estate
Kai Ching Estate. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Further punishment

However, there was no consensus in the committee on how long the contractors would be exempt from consideration for submitted tenders in the future. This will be discussed again at a meeting on Friday.

The committee will also try to decide on Friday whether to punish the companies responsible for piping in the public estates, namely Ho Biu Kee Construction Engineering Company Limited, Ming Hop Company Limited and Golden Day Engineering Company Limited. These were subcontractors for the building contractors, and they did not sign contracts with the HA.

The first case of excessive lead content in fresh water was discovered in July when a water sampling investigation was conducted at Kai Ching Estate in Kowloon City. Eleven public housing estates have been affected to date. The majority of these housing estates were constructed in the last decade.

An independent commission chaired by a judge was appointed to investigate the lead-in-water scandal in August. The commission is expected to complete the report in nine months.

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.