DAB mulls new site for PLA garrison
Gary Cheung and Chloe Lai
Party may seek a relocation if plan for government HQ at Tamar is dropped
A pro-government party yesterday said it would consider proposing that Beijing relocate the headquarters of the PLA's Hong Kong garrison if officials dropped the idea of building new government offices on the Tamar site.
The chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Ma Lik, was echoing the view of Hang Lung Group chairman Ronnie Chan Chi-chung that moving the PLA headquarters from next to the Tamar site would allow a more coherent development of business districts along the coast from Central to Wan Chai.
The pro-government DAB has proposed moving the Central Government Offices and the Legislative Council Building to the former Kai Tak airport site.
On Wednesday, three political parties demanded fresh consultations on the plan to build the new government headquarters at the Tamar site.
Mr Chan told a forum organised by the DAB that the business and financial districts in Central and Admiralty would be linked if the Tamar site was used for commercial development.
But he said the headquarters of the Hong Kong PLA garrison, with an estimated value of about $20 billion, posed an obstacle to eastward expansion of the financial district from Central.
'Of course, it is up to the central government to decide whether the PLA headquarters should move elsewhere, but I think it's a matter that merits discussion. Why not let the PLA reap some benefits by moving away from its existing site?' Mr Chan said.
Mr Ma said the DAB would consider suggesting that Beijing move the garrison's headquarters if officials decided not to build their new head office at Tamar.
Mr Chan said building the new government headquarters at Tamar would undermine the 'small government' principle which was the cornerstone of Hong Kong's economic miracle.
Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is expected to announce the decision to move the government offices and the Legco building to Tamar when he delivers his maiden policy address next month. Work could begin as early as 2007.
Centaline Property Holdings chairman Shih Wing-ching said the easiest way to block the government's plan was to lodge an application with the Town Planning Board to rezone the waterfront site for commercial use.
It was zoned for commercial use in the Central District outline zoning plan in 1994. But the government withdrew the Tamar site from the auction list in 1998 and the plot was later classified as a site for government or community use.
Deputy director of administration Susan Mak Lok Suet-ling said the decision to build the government headquarters on the Tamar site was made after prudent consideration.
Permanent Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan promised yesterday that the government would ask harbour advisers to comment on the architecture of new government headquarters at Tamar.
Ms Lau, who attended a Harbourfront Enhancement Committee meeting, also said future construction on the Central waterfront would need to comply with harbour planning principles drawn up by the committee.