Plans for two community projects – a musical fountain in Kwun Tong and an activity centre in Causeway Bay – passed a major legislative hurdle on Wednesday. Pro-democracy lawmakers have criticised the projects, totalling HK$180m, as being “white elephants” and said their backers had abused the legislative process.
In a “do-over” vote, the Public Works Subcommittee of the Legislative Council passed the two proposals, 22 to 16. The plans were narrowly rejected in June due to the unforeseen absences of some pro-establishment lawmakers. The government then made a rare intervention and re-submitted the proposals with minor amendments.
The move has been roundly criticised by lawmakers as an abuse of process. Convenor of the pro-democracy camp Charles Mok earlier compared it to a losing football team asking for a rematch.
See also: ‘White elephant’ that won’t go away: fate of HK$50m Kwun Tong musical fountain to be decided at legislature
“If there were not enough people [from the pro-establishment faction], then we wait until enough people show up,” Mok said. “With this kind of infinite reincarnation, why do you need the subcommittee at all?”
The proposals will now head to the Finance Committee next for final approval after LegCo’s summer break.
In his 2013 Policy Address, then-chief executive Leung Chun-ying allocated HK$100 million to each of Hong Kong’s 18 districts for what he termed “Signature Projects.” Both the musical fountain and the activity centre were proposed as part of the Signature Project Scheme.
The Kwun Tong musical fountain, costing around HK$50 million, was to be built on the lawn of the Kwun Tong Promenade, a one-kilometre-long waterfront walkway popular among residents. There has been contradictory polling data concerning whether the idea has public support.
After protracted debate at the Kwun Tong District Council, the fountain proposal eventually reached the Legislative Council in 2016.
At the Wednesday subcommittee meeting, pro-democracy lawmakers again criticised the project for lacking broad appeal, and questioned whether the funds could be more effectively spent.
“The Signature Project Scheme is the leftover mess of the Leung administration,” said lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai. “No matter how you look at it, you can’t say the musical fountain is designed for the residents of Kwun Tong… [It has] no meaning, importance or practical value.”
“There have been a lot of new attractions in Kowloon East, it is different from the past where the fountain would be the main draw,” said Wu Chi-wai of the Democratic Party.
The activity centre in Causeway Bay was likewise criticised for being overpriced and poor value.
The Civic Party’s Tanya Chan said the centre – built as a replacement of the current volleyball court – would suffer from cramped spaces and would only support limited activities.