Tin Shui Wai deal 'won't be repeated'
An agreement made 29 years ago to protect a developer's commercial interests in Tin Shui Wai was a result of a desperate need for land to meet increasing housing demand, but this scenario was unlikely to be repeated today despite similar problems, the development minister said.
'We are facing the same [shortage] today,' said Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. 'But I will be very careful and will not make agreements with developers without taking into account public views.'
Lam was referring to a deal between the government and a company owned by property giant Cheung Kong (Holdings) in 1982, under which the commercial space provided by the government in Tin Shui Wai should not affect the commercial viability of that provided by the developer. The deal was reported by the Post last year although the government insisted that it had already been made public in previous announcements.
Lawmakers yesterday criticised the agreement as favouring the developer and said it was a reason why the developer had monopolised commercial activities in Tin Shui Wai.
In response to a question from Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan, Lam said the agreement was made at a time when the colonial government was desperately seeking land to build a new town to accommodate housing demand, as a government survey had shown that all new towns would reach full capacity by 1988.
The government had proposed a deal in which Cheung Kong would sell 488 hectares in Tin Shui Wai to the government at HK$1.45 billion, of which 38.8 hectares would be granted back to the developer at a premium of HK$800 million for the private residential development of Kingswood Villas.
Lam said the agreement that government commercial space would not compete with the developer's - which applied only to the southern part of Tin Shui Wai - was cancelled in 2002.
Ho said the agreement violated the principle of fair competition and worsened poverty problems faced by residents living in Tin Shui Wai.