The Legislative Council has rejected a motion to invoke its special powers to investigate the construction scandal at the MTR Corporation’s Hung Hom station expansion.

Engineering problems at the expansion project for the HK$97.1 billion Shatin to Central Link were exposed by media last May. Last November, the legislature rejected a bid to invoke the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance to form an investigative committee, which would have granted legal powers to summon witnesses and evidence.

However, more construction problems were uncovered last month, such as unauthorised work and missing records. It prompted Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan to raise a motion to form an investigative committee once again, but it was voted down on Thurday.

Hung Hom station. File

On Thursday, 26 lawmakers voted in support of a new investigative committee, including pro-democracy camp lawmakers and independent medical sector lawmaker Pierre Chan. Thirty from the pro-establishment camp voted against the motion and four of the camp’s lawmakers abstained, including Rebecca Chan, Christopher Cheung, Abraham Shek and Priscilla Leung.

During the debate, Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said the MTR Corporation, which is responsible for the project, had transformed from “Mass Transit Railway” into “Most Terrified Railway.”

“The Legislative Council must find out the truth and stop Hong Kong from falling,” he said. “And regardless of the result of the investigation, [transport chief] Frank Chan should take responsibility and step down as soon as possible.”

Photo: LegCo screenshot.

Architectural sector lawmaker Tony Tse said the legislature may not have time to find out the truth since its current term will end in just over a year.

“[S]ome lawmakers will raise political and policy questions. Do we have enough time to conduct a comprehensive, fair and objective investigation? I have my reservations,” he asked.

He said Frank Chan should stay as transport chief since most of the problems occurred before his tenure.

Tony Tse. Photo: LegCo screenshot.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan said during the debate on Thursday that it was an “indisputable fact” that the mismanagement at the Shatin to Central Link project has disappointed lawmakers and the wider community.

He said the government has never tried to cover up the problems and it has reported the case to the police.

He also argued that the legislature has no need to form another investigative committee, since Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the Executive Council have expanded the scope of an existing commission of inquiry into the MTRC’s works, led by a judge.

Frank Chan. Photo: LegCo screenshot.

“The government will seek responsibility from the MTR Corporation and the relevant contractor. We will review the current management system,” Frank Chan said. “The current arrangement is a practical way to solve the problem.”

Chan said the government will only open the Shatin to Central Link when safety can be ensured.

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.