Airport Authority member threatens to quit over delayed mall plan

Politics behind feud that has delayed development, says developer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 November, 2013, 5:21am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 November, 2013, 5:21am

A possible successor to the Airport Authority chairman has threatened to quit the board in a simmering feud between the two men over a train depot linked to a shopping centre project.

Property developer Vincent Lo Hong-sui confirmed yesterday that he tendered his resignation as chairman of the authority's infrastructural planning committee early this month.

Lo, who is widely seen as a supporter of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, said he believed politics was at play over his failure to advance the commercial plan, meant to reduce tourism pressure downtown.

"Hong Kong is very political today. It is very difficult to achieve something," Lo said. "I was psychologically prepared for it when I was appointed [in January]. But the difficulties are much greater than expected."

Lo had been tipped to be the authority's next chairman before the incumbent, Marvin Cheung Kin-tung, was reappointed last month for another year.

On the possibility of completing his three-year tenure, Lo said: "If I find I have become a stumbling block for the authority, it won't be a problem for me to quit the board."

Cheung and Lo are at loggerheads over the big mall, to be built on a site now used as a temporary golf course between Terminal 2 and the AsiaWorld-Expo.

The shopping centre will serve air travellers and visitors arriving via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, to be completed by 2016. It is also expected to fit in with planned development in north Lantau.

Cheung has insisted on building a depot for a driverless electric train, planned for the future third runway, under the mall.

Lo says this would reduce the commercial value of the land by billions of dollars.

He said the "unco-operative management" had refused to show his committee the results of a study commissioned by the authority to explore development options. It meant the committee could not have a proper discussion of the issue and make recommendations to the board.

Lo said an underground depot would pose construction difficulties above, but admitted that moving it away at this stage could delay an environmental impact assessment of the third runway by three to six months.

The transport minister, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, said he hoped Lo could remain as chairman. He also said development of the third runway and the northern commercial zone should go ahead together.

"Given the soaring demand for commercial land use and facilities, the development of the commercial zone will trigger a synergy effect with the airport."