Military sites worth $100b

MILITARY sites that China is prepared to turn over to redevelopment would be worth more than $100 billion, according to the Chinese team leader of the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (JLG), Guo Fengmin.

China has agreed to release 25 of the 39 sites currently occupied by British forces, noting their value to Hong Kong's economic growth.

A draft accord of which sites will be retained and developed for the People's Liberation Army has been drawn up by defence experts attached to the JLG and British officials are reportedly hoping for early acceptance of it.

The use of military land has been discussed in the JLG for more than seven years.

Some technical difficulties are still blocking full agreement and Governor Chris Patten is hoping that he can resolve these by meeting the director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Lu Ping.

Mr Lu will visit the territory next week for the Bank of China's ceremony to launch its Hong Kong banknotes.


But he has not yet agreed to meet Mr Patten due to still strained relations between Britain and China as a result of the row on constitutional issues.

Mr Lu will deliver a keynote speech on ''one country, two systems'' at a function organised by five chambers of commerce on Friday, May 6.

Mr Patten wants to discuss the defence deal, the airport financing plan and the question of civil service through-train with Mr Lu and hopes to resolve some outstanding problems in the draft defence accord before the JLG holds its plenary meeting next month.

Defence experts plan to meet early next month and it is expected the JLG plenum will be held in mid or late May in Hong Kong.


Mr Guo confirmed that the plenum would be held before the end of May. He said the two sides had yet to finalise details on the defence land but that it would be discussed again soon.

He would not confirm that the Chinese side had agreed to release the 25 plots of military land and said only: ''We have agreed to hand a great deal of land back to Hong Kong for economic and social development. According to some conservative estimates made earlier, the land to be released would be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.'' It is understood the draft accord produced by the defence experts in late February envisages that the military estates at King's Park, Kowloon Tong and Happy Valley will be freed for development.


The value of such prime sites ranges from $4 billion to as much as $10 billion, but estates in Fanling or near the border will be worth a lot less.

Sources indicated that the area covered in the 25 military estates was not great.

with many only quarters comprising one or two blocks of flats.


The majority of the sites were expected to become available for sale after 1997.

Remote sites in the New Territories will be less marketable immediately after their release because of a lack of infrastructure.