The education chief says he is mystified by "rumours" that a piece of land reserved for a private university will be turned into a public housing estate.
Eddie Ng Hak-kim said yesterday that preparation of the tender for the 16-hectare former military site at Queen's Hill in Fan Ling had not stopped, although he did not say when formal bids would be invited.
"I have been mystified," the Secretary for Education said in a radio programme when asked about the reports, which he called rumours.
"I am responsible for the policy and have been working on it through established procedures," he said, adding that the site could offer 8,000 self-financed places as well as hostel places for 4,000 students. He also debunked reports about a potential land use change for other education sites in Sha Tin, Tai Wai and Wong Chuk Hang, saying the three sites would still be reserved for tertiary institution.
The South China Morning Post reported earlier that top government officials intend to move away from a policy of developing private education as set out by former Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
Officials have been quoted as saying that potential bidders for the Queen's Hill site could be discouraged by harsh conditions, including the requirement for the operator to bear infrastructure costs of some HK$400 million.
But the reports were shrugged off by a number of potential bidders, including the Jesuits, who had expressed interest in the site and said they were willing to bear the cost.
Centennial College, a private arm of the University of Hong Kong, also said it was interested.
Yesterday, Ng said the Education Bureau had received nine expressions of interest in response to an invitation in 2011 but a tender had not been called.
A former administrative officer said it was not surprising for land planning to change from time to time with changing priorities. "This can really happen and can be quite ad hoc."