The lease of the Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) was authorised in 2015 by then-chief executive Leung Chun-ying, the government has revealed.

Leung has been demanding the FCC reveal the lease after it invited pro-independence activist Andy Chan to speak at the club’s luncheon talk last month – an event that the Chinese foreign ministry in Hong Kong had tried to stop. Leung denied threatening the FCC, but said that many would want the club to explain why the government should not allow others to bid for its premises in Central.

Leung also claimed that the FCC was paying a token rent, but Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the FCC paid rent at market rates.

Foreign Correspondents’ Club. Photo: GovHK.

The government revealed the lease on Wednesday night in response to media enquiries. According to the document, the lease was signed and sealed by a chief property manager of the Government Property Agency, who was “duly authorized by the Chief Executive” on December 29, 2015, when Leung was still Hong Kong’s leader.

The term of the lease is between January 2, 2016 and January 1, 2023. The FCC pays a monthly rent of HK$550,000. It is also required to pay two months of rent in advance. The rate could be reviewed this year.

Foreign Correspondents’ Club Leung Chun-ying
Photo: GovHK.

According to the document, the FCC agreed “not to use, or permit or suffer to be used, any part of the premises for any illegal or immoral purposes.”

The power to determine as to what constitutes illegal or immoral purposes lies within the government, and shall be “final, conclusive and binding” on the FCC.

The government can give three months’ notice to terminate the lease and take back possession of the premises, in the event that the premises “are not being used to the satisfaction” of the government. No compensation shall be given if the cause is exercised.

Leung Chun-ying
Leung Chun-ying at the FCC in 2012. File photo: GovHK.

After the lease was revealed, Leung posted on his Facebook account and said: “Are you all satisfied with the use of the premises?”

“Some media asked me: Why did the SAR government extended the FCC’s lease during my term? The answer is simple: If FCC invited people to advocate Hong Kong independence, I surely would not have agreed to the extension,” Leung wrote.

FCC board meetings

On Tuesday, pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao reported on the minutes of the FCC’s June 23 and July 21 board of governors meeting. The newspaper claimed that the board’s discussion of the talk given by Andy Chan was not included in the minutes.

andy chan ho tin fcc
Andy Chan. Photo: Pool/SCMP.

Citing the report, Leung said that there were detailed records of other events, but Chan’s talk was the only one missing.

“The huge incident where the FCC invited Andy Chan to talk about Hong Kong independence was only our illusion – it never happened,” Leung said satirically. “Why did the FCC handle the minutes like this?”

The government made public the police’s recommendation to ban Chan’s Hong Kong National Party on July 17. Chan’s talk was first publicised on July 30 by the FCC. It is unclear whether the talk was discussed by the FCC’s board of governors.

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.