Housing critics lodge complaint on empty retreat

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 October, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 October, 1997, 12:00am

Tung Chee-hwa, who has pledged to tackle the housing shortage in his first policy address on Wednesday, has come under fire for leaving his official retreat Fanling Lodge unused.

The Democratic Party demanded he consider giving up the government property on Fanling's golf courses.

Its upkeep, together with Government House, costs the taxpayer more than $13 million a year.

More than 58 domestic staff are employed to maintain the two official residences, neither of which appears to have been in regular use by the Chief Executive during his 98 days in power.

Government House is to be used as an official guesthouse for visiting dignitaries and part of it may be turned into a museum.

Mr Tung has said he wants to keep Fanling Lodge as his personal weekend retreat, and it is understood he has allowed his family to use it.

The last Governor, Chris Patten, used the lodge to receive visiting dignitaries. But Mr Tung used his family's privately owned holiday home in Deep Water Bay to entertain Prime Minister Li Peng.

Police say three officers are stationed on guard duty at Fanling Lodge around the clock - one on the main gate and two patrolling the grounds.

A police spokesman said more officers would be deployed there if Mr Tung or anyone else was staying.

Mr Tung's office said: 'The Chief Executive and his family will use Fanling Lodge as a resort during weekends.' But the spokesman refused to disclose the number of times the SAR chief had visited the property.

'Mr Tung and his family may use Fanling Lodge any time. We do not keep records of what they do there and when they go there,' the spokesman said.

Housing critic and Democratic Party member Lee Wing-tat said: 'I hope they remember that public money is being spent to keep it going. If they don't use it, they should allow the public to use it.' Mr Tung has access to at least three homes in the SAR including his prime residence in Grenville House, an apartment in Convention Plaza and the family's club house at 52 Island Road.

He also occasionally uses three family holiday homes in the United States - in New York, San Francisco and Salt Lake City.