In reversal of veto, Hong Kong Legco approves water fountains and activities centre totalling HK$180 million
Pan-democratic lawmakers cry foul that controversial projects generating opposition in two districts are now just one step away from securing funding
Two controversial projects totalling HK$180 million (US$22.9 million) were passed by a Hong Kong legislative subcommittee on Wednesday after being vetoed last month.
They include water fountains in Kwun Tung that cost HK$50 million and a Wan Chai activities centre whose price tag runs at HK$130 million. The approvals mean the plans are just one step away from securing funding from the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee.
Critics have said the fountains are too expensive and not environmentally friendly, while the planned Wan Chai facility has drawn fire because local volleyball courts would have to be relocated to make way for the new building.
After five years of discussion amid increasing opposition in the two districts where the projects would take shape, they were vetoed in the last public works subcommittee meeting held in June when the pan-democrats surprisingly outnumbered their pro-establishment counterparts.
The pro-establishment camp holds a majority in Legco, with 42 seats out of 68.
Officials tabled the proposals again last week after making minor adjustments to the projects, with discussion resuming on Wednesday.
“The government should have handed them back to the community for discussion,” Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said, adding he could not see why officials had reintroduced the proposals so soon after the veto “except to demonstrate their authority”.
Kwok believed the HK$180 million should be spent on pragmatic livelihood policies, not on “white elephant projects”.
Independent pan-democratic lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick slammed the government for, in his words, turning a blind eye to the veto, saying pro-establishment lawmakers “were absent from duty”.
“The government just wiped that out as if it hadn’t happened,” he said.
No pro-establishment lawmakers spoke on Wednesday at the public works subcommittee meeting, while Kwun Tung District Council chairman Bunny Chan Chung-bun attended the meeting and supported the move.
Chan earlier stressed the project had been endorsed by his district council with support from residents.
The adjournment motion and others tabled by seven pan-democrats were vetoed on Wednesday, and the two projects passed with 22 voting in favour and 16 opposed.
The projects were part of the government’s “signature project scheme” announced in 2013 under which each district council would receive a one-off grant of HK$100 million to pay for one or two major works to upgrade the quality of life locally.
Of the 29 projects proposed by the 18 councils, only five have been completed as of July.
Wan Chai district councillor Clarisse Yeung Suet-ying expressed disappointment over the government’s actions but no surprise.
“It would be meaningless if it’s passed in the Finance Committee,” she said of the project slated for her constituency. “The new building will fail to accommodate residents’ needs, while the demand for volleyball courts continues.”