Infrastructure improvement projects worth less than HK$50 million will no longer need individual legislative approval following a decision by Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) which was questioned by some pro-government lawmakers.

The council’s public works subcommittee on Wednesday approved a total HK$24.3 billion budget for the Capital Works Reserve Fund for 2021-22 and raised the ceiling for minor infrastructure projects not requiring individual approval from HK$30 to HK$50 million.

Legislative Council meeting. File Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The proposal was approved by 11 pro-establishment lawmakers. Civic Passion lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai voted against it while pro-government legislator Junius Ho abstained, Stand News reported.

The council has no formal opposition bloc after 15 pro-democracy members resigned in November following the expulsion of four colleagues.

The Capital Works Reserve Fund provides funding to works projects including land acquisition, public buildings and drainage. The raised financial cap means for some of the fund’s “minor” improvement projects in Category D costing less than HK$50 million, such as refurbishment of sports centres and community facilities, and feasibility studies and preparations for design and tendering for major projects, will not have to be submitted to LegCo’s Finance Committee for individual approval.

Michael Tien. File Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Several pro-establishment lawmakers expressed reservations about raising the financial ceiling and questioned whether it would reduce LegCo’s oversight, Stand News reported.

Lawmaker Michael Tien said HK$50 million represented a 70 per cent increase compared to the cap set eight years ago. Legislator Michael Luk raised the question of whether the increase would lead to inflated prices quoted for future projects.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.