My Take

Guest house row is just so academic

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 6:22am

Send in the inspectors. Call the prosecutors. Baptist University is running an illegal guesthouse. How do we know? Because the honchos at the lands and home affairs departments say so.

Actually this looks more like a vindictive tit-for-tat move after the university opposed a government plan to rezone and develop a public site next door for housing.

The government charges the university is abusing lease conditions of its NTT International House in Kowloon Tong by reserving 30 per cent of the 164 rooms for people who are not students, staff or visiting scholars.

All you need to get a room there is, apparently, a recommendation from a student or staff member. This breaches zoning rules as the site is earmarked for government, institution and/or community (GIC) use. Such a dangerous offence that it takes not one but two departments to investigate! Perhaps the house harbours milk-powder smugglers and pregnant mainland women whose babies will be delivered at its hospital down the road!

"A prosecution will be instituted immediately if there is sufficient evidence that the premises concerned are involved in unlicensed guesthouse operations," a spokesman warned.

Seriously, if the government is to strictly enforce GIC zoning rules on unapproved rental premises, hotel and office spaces owned by schools, churches, youth groups and other NGOs, it will have to set up a separate enforcement agency to deal with the case overload.

I am sure if inspectors examine the leases in a city-wide crackdown, they will find many breaches by some of our best-known educational, community services and charity groups.

So the threat to go after Baptist looks like a case of selective justice.

Early this year, Baptist students and dons including its president protested against a government rezoning plan next door.

The government plot is zoned for GIC use. But even as a public consultation was under way about its future, the government put it on a list of GIC sites on which to build housing to ease a supply shortage.

Baptist wants the site for itself to build a traditional Chinese medicine hospital. You don't have to support either plan - both sound dubious - to suspect the reason behind the threat of prosecution.