'Certain party' is hurting city: Tsang
The chief executive yesterday launched scathing criticism of 'a certain political party' and 'some politicians', who he said were using the courts and other means to harm Hong Kong's interests by blocking major projects on environmental grounds.
Donald Tsang Yam-kuen did not name names but his words were seen as being aimed at the Civic Party, whose members were involved in the court case that led last month to the environmental assessment of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge being overturned. The party and its pan-democratic allies said Tsang's remarks amounted to political pressure on judges who would hear the government's appeal on the ruling.
Opening his question-and-answer session with lawmakers yesterday, Tsang said he was worried about Hong Kong's competitiveness because many development projects had been delayed.
'I note that there are views that a certain political party and politicians make use of legal proceedings or other means, under the excuse of environmental protection or conservation, to block large-scale projects when works are about to start,' he said. 'To achieve their own political interests, they would rather harm Hong Kong's ... interests.'
Tsang said there were also questions over whether the party was motivated by environmental concerns or a desire to block economic development, job creation and integration with the mainland.
The bridge case was brought by a former Civic Party volunteer. Her lawyer is a party member.
The Court of First Instance quashed the environmental permit for Hong Kong's part of the project on the grounds that the impact report lacked a separate projection of the environmental conditions if the bridge was not built.
Yesterday, Tsang said that more than 70 other projects faced being held up because of the ruling.
After Tsang's remarks, two pro-Beijing legislators accused 'some party' of abusing legal proceedings, while Civic Party legislator Alan Leong Kah-kit criticised Tsang for trying to shift the blame for the delay.
A government official yesterday said that during Legislative Council discussion of the project, the Civic Party had never referred to the separate 'baseline' study that was at the heart of the court case.
Legco's finance committee voted in May 2009 to approve the bridge.
Civic Party vice-chairman Albert Lai Kwong-tak said yesterday that the party supported the bridge but wanted procedures followed properly.
'Mr Tsang was actually implying that the court had listened to the Civic Party and helped us fulfil our political purpose,' Lai said. 'He refuses to acknowledge that the environmental report was not done well enough, but blames the one who pointed it out.'
Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan also said Tsang's comments amounted to exerting political pressure on the court.
'He is warning the appeal court judges that if they uphold the high court ruling, they are to be responsible for Hong Kong's loss of competitiveness,' Ho said.