HK$30 million to renovate Hong Kong leader’s official home a ‘necessary’ expenditure

Architectural services chief says spending on such residences justified as they are historical buildings

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 March, 2017, 5:47pm
UPDATED : Friday, 31 March, 2017, 11:25pm

The Hong Kong government has spent a total of about HK$29.8 million in the last five years to renovate and preserve Government House, the official residence of the city’s leader Leung Chun-ying.

Another HK$3.8 million and HK$790,000 were spent on the residences of the chief secretary and financial secretary respectively for similar work, but the government’s architectural services chief said the expenditure was necessary to preserve the historical buildings.

The government was criticised last month for its HK$830,000 makeover for the official residence of financial secretary Paul Chan Mo-po at 45 Shouson Hill Road as Chan’s tenure may last for only four more months.

Lawmakers filed a series of questions ahead of special Finance Committee meetings on the budget, which started on Friday. The questions were addressed to various departments, asking them to explain their spending. Some queries focused on the renovation of official residences.

In a written reply to those questions, director of architectural services Leung Koon-kee revealed that a total of HK$29.77 million was spent on Government House, a 162-year-old monument in which British colonial governors and former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen previously lived.

Leung Chun-ying and his family moved into the mansion in October 2012 after an internal refit that cost HK$4.9 million and a series of preservation work, including the replacement of roof tiles, which cost a further HK$9.95 million.

Before Tsang moved into the mansion in 2006, HK$14.5 million was spent to renovate it.

During the fiscal years of 2013-14 and 2016-17, HK$1.35 million to HK$5.03 million were spent each year for work such as the refurbishment of a swimming pool, and upgrading of the ventilation, security and electricity systems.

On Sunday, former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was elected Hong Kong’s next leader, defeating her main rival and former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

When Lam takes office in July, it is likely that she will move into Government House. But it is unclear how much more will be spent on refitting it for her.

Hong Kong finance chief Paul Chan says official residence needed a makeover, but he ‘will not splash out’

When Lam was chief secretary from 2012 to earlier this year, she lived in a Victoria House residence, a 66-year-old grade two historical building on The Peak.

About HK$3.75 million was spent on a series of internal refurbishments and improvements of the air conditioning and lighting systems.

The financial secretary resides in an 82-year-old mansion, also a grade two historical building, where renovation work from 2012 to February this year amounted to HK$790,000. The money was spent on painting work and replacing old carpets.

Leung Koon-kee wrote that the three official residences “needed to be preserved with appropriate maintenance work” because they were historical buildings.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung’s official residence at 19 Severn Road on The Peak underwent renovation costing about HK$1.9 million from 2012 to February this year. The mansion is not a historical building recognised by the Antiquities Advisory Board.

Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan said: “It is difficult to judge or compare whether too much was spent on the residences. We will ask officials to provide more details on how the money was spent.”