Sichuan may return HK donation
Authorities in Sichuan have agreed to consider a Hong Kong government request for the return of a HK$2 million donation used to rebuild a school, after admitting they did not seek Hong Kong's consent before the demolition of the HK$4 million building.
Chief Secretary Stephen Lam Sui-lung said Sichuan officials had made the comments yesterday during his visit to the provincial capital, Chengdu. He said the authorities had also promised a further investigation into why the demolition of the Mianyang Bauhinia Ethnic Secondary School had gone ahead without Hong Kong being consulted.
Lam said he had asked that the HK$2 million be returned to the HK$2 billion trust fund set up by Hong Kong to support reconstruction in the southwestern province after the 2008 earthquake that claimed more than 80,000 lives.
'The Sichuan government said they respected our view, and would conduct further investigation and a follow-up,' Lam said during the visit, which involved trips to various reconstruction projects.
Asked whether the fund would suffer any financial losses as a result of the demolition, Lam said he had confidence in the Sichuan authorities' handling of the matter.
He said there had been no discussions with Mianyang officials about the possibility of demolishing the school, which local authorities said was only ever meant to be temporary, before a permanent replacement was built.
'But they told us it might be torn down after the construction was completed. And we have never approved that,' Lam said.
The school was demolished on Saturday by the site's new owner, construction group Wanda, which plans to build a complex of luxury flats on the land.
On Wednesday, the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers said it would also seek the recovery of its HK$2 million donation.
It had provided education to ethnic minority children in the quake-hit area of Abazhou. It reopened in March 2010 with full facilities, including integrated laboratory complexes, student hostels, canteens, libraries and playgrounds.
There have been conflicting statements on the demolition in recent days.
On Monday, the Mianyang government said the new school was too small and would have to be moved.
But a day later, Li Ze, an officer at the Mianyang Investment Promotion Bureau, told a mainland newspaper that the demolition was 'a selfish move' by the developer, and that authorities had 'no idea it was going to happen', adding that 'penalties may be announced'.
But the deputy planning chief, He Lintai, was reported to have said the school was rebuilt for 'urgent use' and was not intended to be a long-term replacement.
Mainland media reported that the Mianyang county government had tendered for a sale of the site in December 2010, and sold it to Wanda for 390 million yuan (HK$478.19 million) a month later.
But the federation, which oversaw the project, was not notified until six months later.
The original school was destroyed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The earthquake, which claimed 87,449 lives according to official sources, led to a huge outpouring of public and institutional generosity in Hong Kong.
The Mianyang county government sold the site to property developer Wanda for this much, in yuan