'Bullet-proof' Tai Po monastery construction 'not below quality'

Builders suing for payment dismiss claims that quality and progress of their work is behind row

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 August, 2013, 10:29am

The firm building the Tai Po monastery sponsored by Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, yesterday denied having any quality or timing issues with the project - contrary to claims made by the company overseeing the work.

Chun Wo Building Construction is currently suing the developer of the monastery, Metta Resources, for almost HK$335 million in outstanding payments.

It said yesterday that the writ was filed at the High Court after funds for the building works were withheld despite many discussions with the project manager, Cheung Kong Property Development. Li Ka-shing is chairman of Cheung Kong (Holdings).

The project manager had responded to inquiries about the writ last week by saying it understood Chun Wo to have been paid according to the contract and believed the quality and progress of the work had led to the row.

The court documents also revealed that Tsz Shan Monastery, which faces Tolo Harbour, features a massive two-storey fortified building, with bullet-proof windows and doors, and three rooms strong enough to withstand an explosion. It is separated from the rest of the monastery by an electric fence.

Chun Wo said in a statement yesterday: "We have continued with the construction works … even with having to make huge advance expenditures, and we do not owe any fees to subcontractors or any wages to workers in the Tsz Shan Monastery project."

It added that quality issues were "impossible" as Cheung Kong Property Development - which it described as the property owner - had already issued a written certificate of completion, meaning contractual requirements had been fulfilled.

There was also no problem in the progress, the firm said, as by June 28 - the day construction was due for completion - less than 1 per cent of the work remained unfinished.

Cheung Kong Property Development last night said it understood, based on professional assessments, that Metta Resources held a different view of Chun Wo's works and that it would issue a counterclaim after suffering huge losses on the project. It declined to comment further as the case was ongoing.

The Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily earlier reported that Li and his elder son Victor Li Tzar-kuoi had set up a private company to build the monastery, which would serve as Li's final resting place.

Sik Kok Kwong, a Buddhist monk who chairs the monastery's board of directors, later dismissed the suggestion.