West Kowloon Cultural District

Construction company accuses West Kowloon Cultural District Authority of hacking into its computer system

Hsin Chong Construction makes allegation after its HK$5.9 billion contract for the M+ museum project was terminated by the authority in August

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 September, 2018, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 September, 2018, 8:00pm

A contractor, fired by the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, accused the authority of hacking into its computer system in an escalating row over construction problems at Hong Kong’s multibillion-dollar arts hub.

Cash-strapped Hsin Chong Construction said the authority governing the arts hub “hacked into” the company’s server at the M+ project site in West Kowloon, which it said was an unauthorised move and was now seeking legal advice.

The authority did not deny it had accessed to the computer server, but said that “all the equipment, office supplies and project documentation on the site, including the computers, belonged” to the authority as part of the contract.

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While Hsin Chong alleged the authority had gained unauthorised access to the server containing personal and confidential information of an undisclosed number of staff, including Hong Kong identity cards and medical reports, the authority said it had “merely” exercised its contractual right to secure or backup information on the network servers at the project site.

“All the individual desktop computers that were previously at the M+ project office site have since been returned to [Hsin Chong] last Friday, without any data (personal or otherwise) being copied or removed,” the authority said in a statement.

Hacking is considered a technology crime in Hong Kong.

Parent company hits back at West Kowloon Cultural District Authority for firing contractor on Hong Kong’s M+ Museum over financial woes

The accusation marks the latest controversy over the construction of the M+ visual culture museum after the authority terminated its HK$5.9 billion (US$756 million) contract with Hsin Chong in August over what it said was its financial problems and poor management of the project.

The war of words escalated after Monday’s joint subcommittee meeting at the Legislative Council to monitor the cultural district’s development progress. The authority said it was disappointed that Hsin Chong Construction submitted a confidential document to panel members ahead of the meeting that the authority was given no chance to read and said it contained “unsubstantiated claims”.

The authority blamed Hsin Chong’s insolvency problem, which was caused by “severe financial troubles” faced by the parent company Hsin Chong Group and said it had led to delays in the project.

Hsin Chong Construction hit back, saying there was no evidence of insolvency and that the authority’s unilateral decision to terminate the contract was a breach of the fundamental terms and conditions of the contract.

The company said the main reasons contributing to the delays were that 180,000 discrepancies or clashes between the design and the installations were found, but the authority said this was “misleading and indeed absurd”.

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The authority said if any clashes were found during the construction period, Hsin Chong Construction should have submitted substantiated evidence to consider whether these caused delays to the work progress. But up to the point at which the company’s contract was terminated, there was not any credible submission, it said.

Deputy chairman of the joint subcommittee, Tanya Chan, said she was concerned about a chain reaction, such as delays and a cost overrun as a result of a series of events ranging from changing its contractor to Hsin Chong Group’s prospect of being bought over. An undisclosed white knight emerged last week, but it is uncertain if the deal will go ahead as the group faces possible default on a US$300 million payment to bondholders.

“The matter may not be as simple as we see now because of the arguments of the authority and Hsin Chong Construction,” she said.

An authority spokesperson could not disclose the cost of the project at present. But said it aimed to complete the M+ building by the end of 2019 for the opening in 2020.