Tamar project labelled HK's White House

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 May, 2006, 12:00am

Legislators critical of 'expensive and luxurious' new government headquarters

Legislators have described the proposed government headquarters at Tamar as 'Hong Kong's White House', after the project's tender document reveals that there will be dozens of function halls, dining rooms and conference rooms for receptions, banquets and meetings.

The Democratic Party says the excessive luxury would be a factor in deciding whether to approve funding for the project.

The meeting facilities will be able to hold at least 2,500 people, and the government said 3,270 staff would be employed at the headquarters.

An Administration Wing spokeswoman stressed the facilities were 'designed for operational needs'.

The function halls and conference rooms were needed to receive overseas delegations and as venues for meetings of government consultative bodies, she said.

According to the government prequalification document for tenderers, the headquarters will have a low block to house the chief executive and the Executive Council, and a high block to house other bureaus and departments.

The Chief Executive's Office block should be 'located in a prominent position on the project site to reflect its important role in the governance of the HKSAR', the document says.

'[The] scale of the building, architectural form and expression, spatial proportion ... should reflect the leadership position of the chief executive and the Executive Council in the HKSAR government.

'The exterior landscape design should also reflect the dignified image of the block.'

The Chief Executive's Office, which will be expanded from 1,160 to 1,580 square metres, will have a drawing room for 24 VIPs, a conference room and two small meeting rooms.

The Executive Council and its secretariat will have a chamber and ante-chamber, attendees' waiting room, a briefing room and members' reading room.

In the same block there will be a function hall that will be able to hold up to 150 guests for a banquet or 800 people for a cocktail reception. The high block will house a conference hall with a capacity to hold up to 1,000 people standing or 480 people seated, two press rooms and eight conference rooms. These facilities, covering 8,510 square metres, are more than twice the size of those in the current headquarters.

There is no dining room and only a conference hall for about 200 people in the existing headquarters in Central.

The meeting facilities in the new headquarters exclude those to be put in place for different departments housed in the complex.

Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat is critical of the plan, saying the new headquarters will be too luxurious. 'This is Hong Kong's White House. Why do we need so many meeting rooms for a council which meets only once a week? Why do they [Exco members] need an ante-chamber? They only meet for a few hours every Tuesday morning.'

Mr Lee said the party had not decided whether to vote for the government request for $5.1 billion for the project, saying the revelations would affect its decision.

Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit questioned the need for two function halls and dining rooms there.

'There are too many meeting rooms there. That explains why the new headquarters is so expensive,' he said. 'Why do we need two big function halls and dining rooms? So what will be the use of Government House, which is now used for banquets?' Mr Leong also said the headquarters was 'disproportionately expensive and luxurious' when the government was talking about cuts in welfare and health care.

The document was issued in December by the Architectural Services Department for contractors to submit their designs. Four submissions were received and they are being examined by a special selection board.

The government is planning to apply for funds for the project from the Legislative Council's Public Works Committee on May 29 and the Finance Committee on June 23.