Carrie Lam to reflect onwest wing 'sensitivity'
The development minister told lawmakers yesterday she would reflect on her political sensitivity and relationship with advisory bodies after being criticised for ignoring heritage advisers in handling the redevelopment of Government Hill.
In a legislative meeting, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was asked why she announced the amended redevelopment plan for the west wing, a former government office building in Central, before the Antiquities Advisory Board's members were to vote on its historic rating.
On June 14, Lam said demolition of the 52-year-old west wing would go ahead under a build-operate-transfer model, with the government retaining ownership of the new building to preserve the integrity of the former headquarters. A private developer would build and then operate it for a specified period before returning it.
While Lam described the announcement as an effort to remove unnecessary political disturbances for board members, lawmakers criticised her for showing no respect for the heritage system.
'Your action has undermined the importance of the board ... it's not fair to the board's chairman and the members,' Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat said. 'You are described as a tough minister. But if you go further, you would be seen as obstinate.'
But Lam said: 'I feel wronged. I hoped to clear the unnecessary political anxiety [among board members]. But I will review my political sensitivity and the relationship with advisory bodies.'
She said she believed the early announcement of the amended plan would help board members to focus their discussion on the building's historic value. In her view, the public opposed the redevelopment because people did not want the site being sold to developers.
Lam stressed that she had been addressing public concerns as the plan was amended, including the scrapping of a mall, reducing the car park and increasing open space.
The west wing controversy led to the sudden resignation of the board's chairman Bernard Chan, who was accused of colluding with the government when he cast the deciding vote to recommend a grade two status - which does not protect a building from demolition.
A week later, Chan withdrew his resignation, citing a need for unity.