Leung Chun-ying

'Release papers to clear up Foster doubts'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 March, 2012, 12:00am


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Lawmakers of all political stripes are urging the government to release a key document on the 2001 West Kowloon arts hub design competition, which could explain why British architect Norman Foster's winning design was placed before the judges after its initial disqualification.

Their calls came a day after the South China Morning Post reported that Foster's glass canopy concept was originally axed on technical grounds before the judging panel convened.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat said yesterday that the government should release an annexe to the report compiled by the contest's technical panel.

The report was among confidential documents released last week, and included the reasons for recommending the disqualification of 12 of the 161 entries.

It did not name the entries, but it said those requiring major modifications to the sea wall had been excluded.

A government insider said Foster's design, which required reclamation, was among those entries.

'The media has suspicions about whether there was anything wrong with the procedure, and how a scheme could enter the adjudication stage even though the technical panel advising the jury expressed doubts about it,' Lee said.

'The technical report said there was an annexe to it, but the government has only provided the report - and not the annexe. It should release it now to clear up the doubts.'

The disclosure of documents last week was made in response to calls from lawmakers who wanted to clarify whether chief executive candidate Leung Chun-ying, who had served on the judging panel, had a conflict of interest due to a business link between his company, DTZ, and one of the bidders.

Professor Chang Hsin-kang, a member of the judging panel, said the judges had not been allowed to see the 12 disqualified entries until the jury chairman, British peer Jacob Rothschild, said the jury should be allowed to see the disqualified entries.

Chang, who confirmed that one of the disqualified entries reached the final round but did not specify if it was by Foster (pictured), said the way the technical panel's recommendations were ignored was 'unsettling'.

The judges were not told of the identity of the bidders until after they had chosen Foster's design as the winner.

Liberal Party chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee agreed that the government should release the annexe.

'We remain unclear about the whole picture of the incident,' said Lau, who nominated Leung's arch-rival, Henry Tang Ying-yen, for the upcoming chief executive race.

'It would be better to invoke special powers to obtain all related documents,' she said.

Independent lawmaker Patrick Lau Sau-sing, a member of the contest's judging panel, also supported invoking the Legislative Council's Powers and Privileges Ordinance to summon witnesses and obtain documents, including the annexe, that are necessary to clarify what had happened.

Lau Kong-wah, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, also called for the annexe's release, but said there was no need to resort to invoking the ordinance.

Legco's powers

Seen as the Legislative Council's most powerful weapon, the Powers and Privileges Ordinance can either turn the spotlight on every last detail of a scandal - or bring heavy penalties down on those who fail to comply.

Under Section 9 of the ordinance, the select committee formed after yesterday's vote to investigate the 2001 West Kowloon arts hub design competition - and specifically the conflict of interest accusations against contest judge and chief executive hopeful Leung Chun-ying - can compel any person to appear before the committee or disclose information.

Legco can also vote to give any of its subcommittees the power to force full disclosure.

Failure to attend a meeting, produce a document or answer questions constitutes an offence under Section 17 of the ordinance, and anyone doing so will be liable to up to 12 months in prison, a fine of HK$10,000 and an additional fine of HK$2,000 for each day they continue to fail to comply.

The last time Legco invoked its powers under the ordinance was in December 2008, when it voted to investigate former housing chief Leung Chin-man's post-retirement job with a subsidiary of New World Development.