New questions over arts hub contest jury

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 March, 2012, 12:00am


Questions about the government's handling of controversy over a 2002 design contest for the West Kowloon arts hub have multiplied with the discovery that a foreign member of the judging panel had business links to the winner, British architect Norman Foster.

Details of the links between juror Peter Rogers and Foster came to light three weeks after a controversial government statement that chief executive candidate Leung Chun-ying had a possible conflict of interest as a juror on the panel.

Leung faces an investigation by a Legco committee that threatens to become a source of political embarrassment to the government.

The Post has learned that Rogers' firm, a UK property developer, had two deals with Foster at the time.

The Home Affairs Bureau yesterday declined to confirm whether Rogers, co-founder and director of developer Stanhope, and Foster had declared any shared interest before the jury voted in 2002.

The bureau would only say last night that it would 'collaborate with the select committee of Legco. During [that] time, we will not comment on matters related to the competition.'

Foster and Rogers did not respond to questions by press time.

According to Foster + Partners' website, the architecture firm was hired by Stanhope to design two office projects in London. One was Her Majesty's Treasury Redevelopment, between 1996 and 2002, in which Stanhope was one of four clients, another being HM Treasury Exchequer Partnership.

The other was insurance broker Willis' new London headquarters, between 2001 and 2007, for which Stanhope and the British Land Company hired Foster's firm.

In the West Kowloon contest, jurors and participants were required to declare interests.

The competition brief said 'all those likely to be in conflict of interest are excluded from the competition'. This provision included 'any person having an employment-type contract or at continuous and close professional association or partnership' [sic] with a juror.

Democrat Lee Wing-tat said the link between the winner and the juror was a big deal. 'We in the select committee must ask the government to disclose all the declaration forms of the 10 jurors and what it did to ensure fairness in the process,' he said.

Alan Leong Kah-kit, the leader of the Civic Party and a barrister, said that judging from the way the declaration form was structured, the existence of business dealings between Foster and Rogers' companies might not have meant Foster's automatic disqualification. But the contest organiser should have had a mechanism to deal with such a situation.

'The juror in question had to be impartial and had to be seen as impartial,' Leong said. 'This is just like what we say about justice - not only must it be done, it must also be seen to be done.'