Critics hit out over vote on Queen's Pier

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 August, 2008, 12:00am

Government accused of swaying district councils on consultation

The government has been accused of having orchestrated the views of district councils on the future of Queen's Pier, after it emerged that a series of motions that backed shifting the pier to the new Central waterfront had very similar wording.

Councillors also revealed that the government had been closely involved in drafting the motion and had urged them to move it.

A review of council minutes found phrases repeated in 13 of the 16 motions. It also found that 13 motions had been initiated by appointed councillors and members of the pro-government camp, with at least five of them being motions from the floor.

The public consultation on the new Central waterfront closed on Thursday. The government sought the views of all 18 district councils, saying the waterfront belonged to the whole community. Only Wong Tai Sin and Sham Shui Po councils did not move a motion on the issue.

The 13 similar motions said: 'The council supports the creation of a vibrant and accessible new waterfront in Central. To support the new Central Harbourfront Project, the development of the Central commercial centre should be in step with the lowering of development intensity, the promotion of greening, and ample provision of open space and leisure facilities to the public, ultimately giving the harbour back to the community, and with the hope that the government will reassemble the Queen's Pier at the Central harbourfront.'

Another three motions passed in the Eastern, Southern and Kwai Tsing councils had different wording with the same meaning.

Critics questioned the fairness of the consultation and criticised the councils for acting as a rubber stamp.

Wong Tai Sin District Council vice-chairman Wong Kam-chi said the Home Affairs Department had advised some councillors to focus the council's discussion by moving a motion. They were also advised on the motion's 'key points', for example that the new design should not delay infrastructure.

Council chairman Li Tak-hong said he received a message from the district officer that other councils had moved a motion. 'I was asked to consider taking the same action. But that did not mean I had to do so.'

It was the first time his council had been asked to move a motion on an issue outside its geographic area.

Wan Chai councillor Kenny Lee Kwun-yee said her motion was initiated by the government, and the council's secretariat had provided her with a 'draft' of the motion.

The council's discussion was not thorough, but members generally agreed with the motion, she added.

But Ms Lee 'corrected' her comment a few minutes later in another call, saying the secretariat was asked to draft the motion according to the chairman's views.

Tuen Mun councillor Lam Chung-hoi said he received a fax containing the motion from the district officer, who urged him to support it.

Two Yau Tsim Mong and Yuen Long councillors said they had looked at the motion moved by other councils before moving their own.

A Home Affairs Department spokeswoman said it was the prerogative of district council members to decide on the wording of a motion, but declined to comment on whether the department had provided a draft.

A Development Bureau spokeswoman said the bureau had liaised with district officers in preparation for council meetings, but did not comment on whether it had been involved in drafting the motion.