Critics slam office relocation plan

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2011, 12:00am


The plan to move Hong Kong's financial watchdog and stock exchange to the planned tower on Government Hill to bolster Central's image as a core financial district is meaningless, critics say.

And although the government said in the Policy Address last month that the Securities and Futures Commission and Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing would move their offices to the tower, the two organisations yesterday said that they had not made a decision.

The criticisms came in advance of a planned announcement today by the development minister on the progress of plans for redeveloping the hill.

In an article yesterday, David Webb, a corporate governance activist, said that the administration's handling of the redevelopment scheme was interventionist.

'The statement [in the Policy Address] also ignores the fact that HKEx and the SFC are already in Central - so how can moving them to another piece of Central 'enhance Central as a core financial district?'' Webb wrote.

Decisions on where to locate HKEx, a for-profit company, should be made by its board and not by the government, although it owns 5.8 per cent of the company's shares, he added.

He said that official intention to require the future developer to lease office space to a private-sector entity such as HKEx was 'heavily interventionist'.

Earlier, officials dismissed conservationists' views that the west wing needed to be preserved for its heritage value. They proposed to sell the site to build an office tower, but under public pressure agreed to reduce mall space and bring in the two financial bodies.

Lee Wing-tat, Democratic Party lawmaker, said he would rather see such a central location - if redevelopment were the only option - occupied by community facilities and agencies that provide public services, such as the Legal Aid Department.

'Otherwise, it is meaningless to move the two financial bodies there and say they are for conserving Central,' Lee said.

Tanya Chan, of the Civic Party, doubted that officials had thought through the scheme, since the two organisations had not agreed on the relocation.

'The idea of bringing them in seems to me to divert people's attention,' she said.

Her party, historians and 21 concern groups had campaigned to save the west wing for its historic value.