Payout defended for Walled City
DEVELOPERS were paid the same compensation for flats they had in the Kowloon Walled City as other owners to prevent disputes over the clearance of the site, the Public Accounts Committee heard yesterday.
Lui Hau-tuen of the City and New Territories Administration told the panel that developers had owned up to 25 per cent of the flats.
He argued that they should be treated the same as other owners, even though payments to all absentee-owners had cost $91 million on top of the statutory compensation.
One of the developers owned 101 flats in the city.
''The political intensity and the feelings of residents in the Walled City had already made the clearance difficult, and it would be unthinkable to tell developers that they would be getting less,'' Mr Lui said.
''Besides, we should not depart from the policy we applied to the others.'' Hu Fa-kuang, chairman of the Housing Authority Special Committee overseeing the clearance, echoed his concern.
''If this had not been resolved, I don't think we would have been able to solve the problem,'' he said.
Emily Lau Wai-hing, one of the seven member of the Public Accounts Committee under the Legislative Council, said the clearance committee had stuck blindly to the rules, and the policy had been carried out ''in an expedient manner''.
But Mr Hu replied: ''Don't think of myself and the special committee as 'yes-men'. We do think logically and don't follow policies blindly. If we think it is not right, we criticise it.'' United Democrat Albert Chan Wai-yip asked why a second survey had not been carried out on flat sizes in the Walled City.
A preliminary study found the most common size was about 23 square metres but it was later found to be 26 metres, resulting in additional payments of $119 million.
In response, Mr Hu said details of the 413 individual structures surveyed did not form part of the discussions at the clearance committee meeting.
''Had the committee been aware that there was a potential problem in that respect, my view is that it would have discarded this data from its deliberations,'' he said.
He also said the committee had been pressed for time and circumstances did not allow them to do a second survey.
The Director of Buildings and Lands, Darwin Chen, said: ''A second survey would not provide a 100 per cent result, unless there was a very large sample. Even so, we would still have the marginal error.'' The Government is seeking approval for an extra $337.6 million to compensate people in Yau Ma Tei, Wan Chai and Western who have to surrender their property for community facilities.