Donald Tsang

Tsang's weekend residence gets $1.3m facelift too

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 August, 2005, 12:00am

Chief executive's staff won't tell all about plan for Fanling Lodge

Taxpayers will have to fork out a further $1.36 million to give Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's official weekend residence in Fanling a facelift.

The move comes amid controversy over Mr Tsang's plans to build a $300,000 fish pond for his pet carp at Government House - which is being fully renovated at a cost of $14.5 million.

It has also been revealed that, less than two months into his tenure as chief executive, Mr Tsang has already used the sprawling New Territories estate - although his office has declined to say for what purpose or how often.

The Fanling facelift has prompted fresh concerns, with the chairman of the Legislative Council's Finance Committee urging the administration to be more prompt and transparent about spending plans.

Tucked away behind trees skirting the Hong Kong Golf Club course, Fanling Lodge has served since 1934 as a retreat for British-appointed governors and the city's first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa.

It has also housed visiting dignitaries, with former British prime minister John Major staying there in 1996 when Chris Patten was governor. It is undergoing - among other undisclosed work - what Mr Tsang's office said was 'maintenance and touch-ups, including improvements on its outdoor drainage system'.

'No renovations are being planned there,' a spokeswoman added.

However, amid what appeared to be tightened security arrangements last week, a construction firm was seen employing cranes to haul metal pylons out of a fenced-off work area next to an apparently new outhouse in the grounds.

Officials were unable to fully explain the work being carried out last week, or provide details of when it started or was expected to finish. They were also unable to say how many times Mr Tsang has used the lodge or for what purposes, or whether he has entertained any dignitaries there or plans to do so in future.

The lodge has four bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a swimming pool and a tennis court and employs two permanent staff at a cost of $470,000 a year.

The Frontier legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing, who chairs Legco's Finance Committee, questioned why the $1.36 million bill had not been disclosed in a document released to Legco's constitutional affairs panel last week which detailed the Government House bill.

'This is the residence for the chief executive, so if he stays there, there's no problem,' Ms Lau said. 'But I wonder why this figure wasn't released along with the others last week. They should tell us [what their plans are] and also disclose other items.'

Ms Lau sent a letter to the chief executive yesterday urging the government to press ahead with 74 health, leisure and culture construction projects left over from when the municipal councils were abolished in 2000.

Security at Fanling Lodge has also been stepped up. Prominent signs have been posted outside the front gate warning against trespass and saying press photography is strictly forbidden. Both uniformed and plain-clothes security officers are now patrolling the grounds.

A police spokesman said the new measures were standard procedure.