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Hong Kong MTR

Hong Kong lawmaker willing to join opposition in call for special probe into MTR’s HK$97.1 billion link scandal if judge-led inquiry not expanded

Pro-establishment legislator Priscilla Leung urges government to include subsidence at residential blocks around To Kwa Wan station in Hung Hom station scandal probe

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 August, 2018, 10:59pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 August, 2018, 2:30pm

A key pro-establishment party has warned it could join the opposition’s call to invoke the legislature’s special powers to investigate construction scandals clouding Hong Kong’s most expensive rail project as public discontent mounts over the handling of the saga.

Lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, said on Thursday that should the government refuse to extend an inquiry to cover concerns over sinking residential blocks caused by construction at To Kwa Wan station on the Sha Tin-Central link she would support an investigation by the Legislative Council.

The alliance has seven members in Legco, including Leung.

One option was to invoke special powers under the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance, said Leung, who led a rally before a meeting of Kowloon City District Council attended by representatives from embattled rail giant MTR Corporation and the government.

A judge-led inquiry will look into shoddy construction at Hung Hom station, where steel bars were cut short and plans of walls and the platform altered without the government being told.

“We hope the government can expand the inquiry to include the sinking at To Kwa Wan station, in addition to the Hung Hom station scandal,” Leung, who is also a district councillor, said.

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“If the government does not positively heed our demand, I shall follow up in Legco and request it to launch its own investigation [into the subsidence].

“The problem now is not only the safety of [Hung Hom station], it is about public trust in the rail project. The last thing we want to see is that public trust is shattered by the recent incidents.”

The opposition pan-democrats have been pushing for a Legco probe to summon witnesses and force the government and rail company to disclose documents to investigate the scandals.

Media reports last Wednesday revealed 23 residential buildings around To Kwa Wan station, where construction started in 2012, had sunk below statutory limits.

District councillors lashed out at the rail firm and government departments for keeping them in the dark about the subsidence at Thursday’s meeting.

“Not a single person responsible for this issue has given detailed answers to local residents, who are just worried about whether their lives are in danger now,” pro-establishment member Kwan Ho-yeung said.

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Kwan last week said the council had received more than 100 complaints from residents in the area over cracks in their flats since 2015.

A representative of the Lands Department told the meeting they received 29 complaints, including 20 from To Kwa Wan residents, about the construction problems associated with the link, but the representative said none had succeeded in getting compensation.

MTR Corp construction manager Patrick Cheng Kei-shing said he hoped the council would “give us more time” before the company released data on the subsidence. “We are still working on the way to present the data so that the public can understand easily.”

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Anthony Yuen Woo-kok from the Highways Department’s Railway Development Office said subsidence exceeding the statutory limit did not necessarily imply safety problems.

Yuen said the department checked the 23 buildings last week, and found “no apparent safety issues”. The MTR Corp said it would send another assessment team to the area next week, and was also planning to deal with complaints from residents individually.

The corporation last week overhauled its top management team after the government demanded heads roll for the scandals plaguing the HK$97.1 billion (US$12.5 billion) rail link.