Budget proposals for controversial infrastructure projects have failed to pass at the final Finance Committee meeting of the current Legislative Council. The Home Affairs Bureau expressed “deep regret” over the incident.
The three projects were the construction of musical fountains at Kwun Tong Promenade, the Moreton Terrace Activities Centre in Wan Chai, and improvements on tourist facilities at Lam Tsuen Wishing Square in Tai Po – which is often dubbed a replica of Tiananmen Square. Each of them will cost more than HK$50 million.
Discussion on the three projects were originally placed higher on the agenda, but the government moved the projects to the back of the queue during the meeting on Tuesday in order to pass budgets for less controversial projects, as time was running short.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying proposed allocating HK$100 million to each district for community projects in his 2013 policy address.
However, projects under the scheme proposed by pro-Beijing camp district councillors received opposition from resident groups who criticised them for being “white elephant” projects. Some took to Hong Kong’s anti-graft agency to lodge complaints on alleged conflicts of interest in the Tai Po project.
The Finance Committee only passed three budget proposals out of 12 in the first six hours of the meeting on Tuesday.
The government then decided to move other less controversial projects – such as the construction of staff quarters for the Correctional Services Department at Tin Wan in Aberdeen – to a higher position in the agenda, so that they could be passed.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was involved in a negotiation with political parties to decide which projects should be of lower priority and to make a final decision to change the agenda, according to a source cited by a Now TV programme.
After that, four more non-controversial projects were passed in an hour. But pan-democratic lawmakers raised many questions when the three controversial projects were being discussed. The final meeting of the current term ended with seven projects yet to be passed.
The budget approval process for the seven projects will have to be restarted in the next Legislative Council term after the election in September.
Chan Kin-por, chairman of the committee, said it regretted the result. He also criticised some lawmakers for sacrificing the voting rights of other lawmakers.