HK$9m legal bill run up in bridge challenge
The litigation over the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge ran up at least HK$9 million in legal costs - including HK$1.5 million in legal aid given to the woman whose judicial review interrupted the project - the government said yesterday.
The amount for legal aid sum was a preliminary, minimum estimate subject to further assessments, the administration said in a written answer to a question by lawmaker Lam Tai-fai in the Legislative Council.
Chu Yee-wah, 66, a Tung Chung public housing tenant, secured a judicial review of the HK$83 billion bridge project. Her lawyers argued that the government's environmental impact assessment failed to meet its own standards for gauging the likely effect on local pollution levels. The bridge will start from Lantau Island near Tung Chung.
At a special Legco meeting yesterday to discuss the project, officials said the extra costs caused by the legal delay could easily exceed an earlier estimate of HK$6.5 billion. That figure was a 'very conservative estimate', lawmakers were told.
The project was sidelined in April when a judge found in favour of Chu. Last month the Court of Appeal overturned that ruling, clearing the way for work on the project to continue.
At yesterday's Legco meeting, which addressed the government's request for HK$49 billion to fund construction of bridge-related infrastructure, lawmakers said the government had a responsibility to give the public a full account of the project's cost.
Legislator Ip Wai-ming asked: 'How much do we [taxpayers] have to pay for this? What would be the worst scenario?'
Transport Secretary Eva Cheng pledged that the government would keep the public informed.
Lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, of the radical League of Social Democrats, accused authorities of incompetence over the many infrastructure projects that have been challenged by judicial reviews.
The bridge was not the only project affected by April's ruling in favour of Chu. Environmental impact assessment reports on a planned waste incinerator and the Sha Tin-Central rail link had to be submitted to the environment chief for reconsideration.