Tsang lines up Shenzhen retirement penthouse
Fiona Tam, Tanna Chong and Olga Wong
Workers are putting the finishing touches to a three-storey 6,500 sq ft penthouse in Shenzhen's Futian district, into which it is expected Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen will move soon after his retirement in June.
The three-storey luxury apartment on the 35th, 36th and 37th floors of Junhao Building, East Pacific Garden, includes an outdoor garden and a swimming pool. Decoration work alone had cost around 10 million yuan (HK$12.3 million), said a person familiar with the situation.
According to a detailed floor plan dated in January and shown to the South China Morning Post, the apartment contains more than a dozen rooms and separate toilets for residents, their guests and maids. Its master bedroom has an independent bathroom and three coat rooms.
The three floors are connected by a swirling staircase. The lower floors contain a reading room, three living rooms, a dining room, a wine cellar, several storage rooms and a gymnasium. On the top floor is a karaoke room, a home theatre, a reading room and a small outdoor garden.
The penthouse can be accessed only via an exclusive and secured lift that takes visitors directly from the basement to the 37th floor.
Ng Wing-shun, a veteran architect and vice-president of the Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design, said he was impressed by the luxurious design after studying the floor plan.
'The master room has 25 wardrobes - 10 times bigger than what an ordinary one might have,' he said.
But he noticed that part of the penthouse was added after the building's construction, deviating from the original design. This alteration could be considered an illegal structure in Hong Kong, but it is unclear if it was above board in Shenzhen.
Decorators said they began work on the apartment in November and would finish in April or May.
When talking to the media last night, Tsang said: 'I hope you will not always analyse issues from a negative conspiracy perspective. I'm very sad to see what is going on. And I'm very distressed, too. If this trend continues, Hong Kong will be constantly exhausted by internal strife.'
Earlier yesterday he said he planned to leave Hong Kong 'for a period of time' after his term expired and that his wife, Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei, had rented a house in Futian to prepare for his retirement. They plan to move into the flat on July 1.
The Futian penthouse was developed by tycoon Wong Cho-bau - a delegate of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference - who has extensive business interests in Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
Wong said yesterday that the flat was rented out to Tsang at a market price, but refused to give details. The chief executive's office echoed the developer, adding that the apartment's decorations had been paid for by the property's owner.
The average monthly rental for a no-frills flat at East Pacific Garden is around 9 yuan per sq ft, which would price Tsang's luxuriously decorated penthouse at a minimum of 60,000 yuan a month - assuming such a unit was available in the open market.
'It is much larger than 6,570 square feet if you include the outdoor garden and the swimming pool,' said a local agent. 'Wong's family used to live at this apartment - it is very hard to find a spacious penthouse like this in such a central location. It has never been made available on the market.'
Tsang told RTHK yesterday that he and his wife had been planning for his retirement 'for years'.
'She has been looking for a house in Shenzhen several times. We want to purchase a property. At the moment, we rent a house in Futian.'
A former security guard at East Pacific Garden said he had seen cars believed to be carrying Tsang and his wife arrive at the building several times last year.
'His car was always escorted by Shenzhen police officers on motorcycles and with several other Hong Kong vehicles,' said the security guard, who is now a real estate agent.
About 300 sq ft of the penthouse seems to have been added to the building after its construction, according to Ng, the architect who studied its floor plan.
He said the greenhouse on the 37th floor appeared to be an additional glass structure added to the rooftop only after its design was approved by local authorities.
'It would be considered illegal [in Hong Kong] if it is not approved by the authorities,' Ng said.
For a detailed look at the floor plan of the penthouse, please go to www.scmp.com
Estimated annual salary, in HK dollars, that Donald Tsang earns as the city's chief executive