Developers brought back down to earth
Central Plaza, the 78-storey skyscraper run by Sun Hung Kai Properties in Wan Chai North, has many distinctions to its credit. Among these is the record for Hong Kong's tallest building, a title which it held until 2003 when Two IFC - in which its developer SHKP also has a stake - was completed.
For a while, at 378 metres, Central Plaza was even the tallest building in all of Asia and it is so lofty that, a few years ago, I was partly persuaded to accept a job there, if only for the stunning views from the company's offices on the harbour side of the 62nd floor.
It's been more than a year since I stopped working there, but still I sometimes pine for the panorama - a view so impressive that it has inspired one of the tenants to make an even more flattering appraisal. Sky City Church, which holds regular services there, says it provides 'a wonderful environment to encounter God'.
On Sundays, public access to the building is limited but Sky church members are allowed to ascend all the way to the 75th floor for their services - a journey that requires three elevators. Once, when I sneaked up there to see if the view was any more impressive than the one from the 62nd floor, the only presence I encountered was the dark-suited security guards who watch Central Plaza's every corner, 24/7. Make no mistake: these developers, the same firm that is co-chaired by the two Kwok brothers now out on bail after their arrest by the ICAC, sure do know how to enforce the law on their own turf.
At the time when I worked there the word in Central Plaza's highly polished hallways was that the Sky church was able to hold services in the Apex, as it's called, because of its association with Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, a famously devout Christian, who built a replica of Noah's ark out in Ma Wan.
No doubt Thomas' faith will serve him well when, one day as we all must, he meets his maker. Meanwhile, he and brother Raymond, who were arrested with a senior former official, face allegations of bribery. So it's also true that, for Thomas, salvation is going to have to come from a more secular realm, at least in the shorter term.
Alex Lo is on leave and will return next week