• Tue
  • Sep 30, 2014
  • Updated: 10:02pm

Bureau must explain why it's replacing a policy that works with a witch-hunt

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 June, 2011, 12:00am

The reports about unauthorised building works on the properties of government officials and lawmakers display aspects of a witch-hunt ('Tsang agrees to remove structure', June 2).

As Y. B. So pointed out, there has been a history of official tolerance of such works as long as they do not present a public danger ('Blitz replaced policy which was flexible', May 29). Presentations by government to lawmakers at the Legislative Council concerning such unauthorised works have cited public safety as the sole criterion for the issuance of removal notices, in the context of a commitment to cause a minimum of disruption to property owners.

To the contrary, the Development Bureau is now adopting a broadened enforcement policy without having publicly established the case for embarking on such wide-reaching action. Zealous legislators and bureau officials are pushing the previously sensible policy in a disruptive direction. The Buildings Department avoids responsibility by transferring these matters outside the civil service to professional consultants whose industry has a vested interest in demolitions and restorations.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has already fallen foul of this policy and decided to remove windows from his balcony that presented no obvious danger. Photographs of his MacDonnell Road property indicate that half the owners in his block have similar structures. This pattern of windowed balconies is repeated extensively throughout Hong Kong. Mr Tsang's response may be mirrored by many urban owners, even though 'unauthorised' is not necessarily synonymous with 'illegal'. Our democratically elected lawmakers could learn some lessons from the Heung Yee Kuk about how to represent their constituents' interests ('Less legal action over NT buildings', June 2).

The social impact of such a huge number of unnecessary demolitions will be colossal. In January, the Buildings Department implemented a 'minor works control system' that should preclude future unauthorised structures by placing an onus on the building industry to comply with regulations. The Development Bureau now seeks to turn back the clock, but this action often damages a good mechanism. Lawmakers need to bring some common sense to bear on this issue. The bureau must publicly declare the justification for its policy change and reassure property owners that it is not colluding with the building professions to create jobs to be paid out of citizens' pockets.

Frank Lee, Mid-Levels

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