A HK$31.9 billion funding proposal for the Kai Tak Sports Park has been passed by a subcommittee at the Legislative Council.

It will now be reviewed by the LegCo’s Finance Committee, the final stage needed to green light the funds.

The plans came under fire recently as the government is to provide incentives of up to HK$60 million for each of the three potential construction bidders – even if they fail to win the project. It is the first project of its kind to use such measures to attract companies.

Artist impression of Kai Tak Sports Park. Photo: hab.gov.hk.

The government had said such arrangements were made since interested parties may be reluctant to waste time and money in an effort to bid, without any potential benefits.

The pro-democracy camp did not reject the need for the Kai Tak Sports Park, but said the bidding arrangement was unacceptable.

Time and cost savings

Betty Fung, Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, defended the arrangement at the Public Works Subcommittee on Wednesday. She dismissed suggestions that the first round of bidding should use traditional methods, before incentives are provided, as she claimed that bidders would all choose to not participate in the first round and wait for the second.

She added that using traditional bidding methods would increase the length and cost of the project.

The funding proposal was narrowly passed by the subcommittee on Wednesday with 18 “yes” votes and 17 “no” votes. Three pro-democracy camp lawmakers – Helena Wong and Andrew Wan of the Democratic Party, and Charles Mok – were absent from the vote.

Part of the master layout plan of the Kai Tak Sports Park. Photo: GovHK.

Wong told news site HK01 that she was sorry as she did not attend the meeting because she was feeling unwell in the morning. Mok told Stand News he was sorry for being late to the vote.

Wan said he received calls for help from the residents of a historical building in Tuen Mun as they said the owner was trying to block them from returning home by setting up fences. He went to the area to reach the representative of the owner to stop the work, and only arrived late at the LegCo.

The pro-Beijing camp was seen celebrating with officials after the vote.

The proposal still needs to be passed at the Finance Committee, where the pro-Beijing camp has a majority.

Alongside the potential construction of the Kai Tak Sports Park, there are government proposals to change the use of the Hong Kong Stadium in Causeway Bay to a local sports ground. Meanwhile, the Wan Chai Sports Ground faces demolition, as suggested by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

Louie Lobo, associate professor at the Department of Physical Education at Baptist University, welcomed the decision of the LegCo subcommittee to pass the funding.

The Hong Kong Stadium. Photo: HKFA.

He said at a RTHK programme on Wednesday that when the Hong Kong Stadium was built in the 1950s, Hong Kong’s population was only around three million.

“Now, our population is close to eight million, we should need a balance between work and leisure in having sports facilities,” he said.

He added the use of other sports grounds could be discussed: “[T]he Hong Kong Stadium was not designed to be perfect – once the Kai Tak Sports Park is finished, it will have a similar function to the Hong Kong Stadium, where its original running track could be retained, then we can discuss the issue of demolishing the Wan Chai Sports Ground.”

“Issues can be discussed, athletes are rational too, but the government’s attitude was to take away your home without telling you where you can go, that is the problem.”

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.