A controversial HK$31.9 billion funding package for the Kai Tak Sports Park has been passed by the Legislative Council.
The proposal was criticised as it included government plans to provide incentives of up to HK$60 million – or half of the bidding cost, whichever is higher – to construction companies which made bids, even if they were unsuccessful. The subsidy is worth a total of HK$120 million.
Lawmakers were also concerned about the nature of the contract with private developers. It proposes that they will design, build and run the project for 25 years, whilst the government pays for the construction costs.
Though not all pro-democracy lawmakers rejected the idea of constructing the park, they have voiced opposition against the “cash for bids” plan. They had been trying to filibuster the legislative process at the Finance Committee.
However, the LegCo president shortened the general meeting at the chamber this week to allow more time for the Finance Committee to pass the proposal.
After 13 hours of meetings, it was eventually passed on Friday with the support of the pro-Beijing camp. 36 lawmakers supported the proposal, 21 opposed, and one abstained.
All motions rejected
All 26 motions raised by the pro-democracy camp lawmakers were rejected by the Beijing camp, including one raised by Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, which was a binding motion demanding that the Financial Secretary only deploy the approved funds after July 1 next year – three months later than the proposed date.
It was the first time in history a conditional offer of funds was raised at the committee.
“It would take back some power for the LegCo on public finance, and there is one more option [we can use],” he said.
“We hope lawmakers will not only ask questions, but perform our duties better in accordance with the law, to defend the public’s rights,” Chu said. “I hope the use of Article 21 [of the committee meeting rules] could be a new way to improve the relationship between the administration and the legislature.”
But Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah opposed the motion saying it would delay the project, as the government would not have enough funds to pay the necessary consultant fees for the project and delay other follow-up work.
Elizabeth Tse Man-yee, Permanent Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, said it was not the committee’s responsibility to set a limit on the time to use the funds, and the government has no right to implement the request.
After the proposal was passed, Lau said the government will soon begin the bidding process. If all goes smoothly, he said, the project will begin construction in mid-2018.
The sports park is set to be the largest in Hong Kong. The 28-hectare project has key facilities such as a stadium with a 50,000-seating capacity for sports and entertainment events, a sports ground that can hold 5,000, and an indoor sports arena that is roughly the size of 30 standard badminton courts.