The cost of an office set to by used by the incoming chief executive-elect for some three months has quadrupled to almost HK$40 million compared to that of five years ago. The government has revealed that the lease for renting the space was signed before a Legislative Council meeting over the issue.

In 2012, the cost of the office – operated between March and June at the former government offices – was HK$8.29 million. However, owing to a lack of space at government premises this year, an office at the Champion Tower in Central will be used with a rent of HK$12.92 million and an estimated extra cost of HK$16.95 million for fittings and then removals.

The office would only be used between March 26 and June 30 this year, but the rental period would be between late January and mid-August as office fittings will need to be installed and removed.

Champion Tower (left); Former government offices (right). Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

With an estimated HK$6.63 million set to be spent on salaries, and an estimated HK$3.46 million set to go on general departmental expenses, the final cost comes to HK$39.96 million.

Several lawmakers, from both the pro-Beijing and the pro-democracy camp, have expressed their opposition to the increased cost at a Legislative Council session.

Bobby Cheng, deputy director of administration, said the government has looked into its premises and all spaces were already occupied. He said that they rejected an idea to move some departments to accommodate the office: “We realised it may be even more expensive this way.”

Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo called it “unbelievably lavish spending” and asked Cheng whether the government has signed the lease. Cheng then revealed the lease has already been signed in the middle of this month.

“So there is no way to oppose it? So you are not consulting the Legislative Council, but only notifying us?” Mo asked. “How ridiculous. You can see even those who don’t belong to the pro-democracy camp oppose this.”

Asked who was responsible for choosing the site, Cheng said it was mainly conducted by the Government Property Agency. Officials and related departments were also consulted to make a judgement using their professional knowledge.

Kris Cheng

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.