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Old March 30th, 2006, 07:27 AM   #121
hkskyline
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Building without brains
30 March 2006
South China Morning Post

It is frustrating talking to a brick wall. Community groups were branded "anti-development" by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen when they tried to tell him the government's development plans for Central would lead to worse congestion and air quality, and unattractive aesthetics.

The reasons are that the planned complex is too dense, the land parcels slated for development are too large, and highways and roads would dominate the waterfront.

But the government doesn't want to hear this. Officials prefer to hide behind "process": they say the plans have been through the town planning process, and development should proceed quickly. When reminded that the Town Planning Board has raised various concerns, government officials said those issues could be taken care of in the final design.

The government does not want to review the whole plan, although that is what should happen. Hong Kong needs an approach to planning the Central waterfront that is qualitatively different from what has gone before. To see the results of the old approach, you only have to look at what the entire north shore of Hong Kong Island is like today. The waterfront is ugly and cut off from the city by major highways.

The government says everything will be much better in the future, without addressing the details. But the problem is that the surface highways are still going to be there. Pedestrians will have to use raised footbridges to cross these major highways.

In Hong Kong, we all know what walking on raised footbridges is like: they are everywhere. The reason we cannot walk at road level in so many cases is because the space has been given to highways. Is it a pretty sight? No. Is it healthy? No. Are there alternatives? Yes, but we have to adopt a different, lower-density, planning approach.

This is also how critics see the Tamar development for government offices - Mr Tsang's pet project. The government says it will create "an iconic civic core" at the Tamar site, where half the space will be used for government offices and a new Legislative Council building, and the rest will be "designated as open space {hellip} and be developed into a public, civic space".

But this icon will be surrounded by multiple layers of roads. The government steadfastly refuses to consider the surrounding environment of this "civic core".

What critics are trying to tell legislators and Mr Tsang is that the final product cannot be aesthetically pleasing or healthy to visit because of the impact of the entire Central waterfront plan. The government needs to fix the whole plan before it can really consider how best to use and design the Tamar site.

The government's response is disingenuous. Last week, Susan Mak Lok Suet-ling, the acting director of administration, claimed the Tamar development itself would have no long-term adverse impact on traffic, air quality or the environment of the Central district.

The point is not just what goes on top of the Tamar site. There are problems with the entire plan, of which Tamar is a part.

Perhaps government officials and even legislators don't worry about roads, traffic congestion, air quality, noise and aesthetics because they work indoors. But surely, that would be a total failure of their responsibility. To restrict bargaining to essentially the height of the government building is laughable.

Mrs Mak also repeated the hollow argument that the Tamar project would create about 2,700 jobs. If the government is keen to create even more construction jobs it should proceed with the North Island subway line first. A rail line would benefit more people and reduce the need for waterfront highways.

Is anyone in the government willing to engage on details, or are we going to be fed more propaganda?

Christine Loh Kung-wai is chief executive of the think-tank Civic Exchange.
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Old March 30th, 2006, 05:14 PM   #122
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From news.gov.hk:
Tamar site most suited for Gov't HQ: CE (Chief Executive)
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Old March 31st, 2006, 02:04 AM   #123
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It's Tamar - and no argument
Michael Ng
Hong Kong Standard
Friday, March 31, 2006



Chief Executive Donald Tsang made it crystal clear Thursday that Tamar is the best possible site for the new government headquarters - and that he will not entertain any further arguments against it.

His statement put an end to a determined bid by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong to get the headquarters relocated to southeast Kowloon.

The HK$5 billion headquarters development was one of the main topics discussed during Tsang's 90-minute question-and-answer session in the Legislative Council Thursday.

DAB legislator Cheung Hok-ming said a study by his party had found that some mainland cities had already moved their government headquarters and political centers to less congested areas.

He said relocating the new government headquarters to the site of the former airport at Kai Tak would also boost redevelopment of southeast Kowloon.

"Has the government taken into account the opinion of the DAB, a party that is close to the public and represents those at the grassroots level?" Cheung asked.

"Has the government considered that relocating a new headquarters to southeast Kowloon would also enhance the claim that the government is getting closer to the public?"

In reply, Tsang said Hong Kong could not be compared with capital cities in other large countries.

"As a financial center, we need to keep the administration, legislature and judiciary close to our financial districts. They are simply inseparable," Tsang said.

"If our headquarters was relocated out of Central, we would have to persuade our legislature and judiciary to also move out and this, I believe, would affect our efficiency.

"That process of moving out would also cause more arguments than the [Tamar site] debate presently going on in the legislature."

Tsang noted that the lengthy time required for replanning would delay the completion of the headquarters and fail to meet urgent demands for the creation of more jobs in the construction industry. Besides, he added, there was already a proposal to build a cruise terminal and a multi-purpose stadium in southeast Kowloon, which should help boost development in the area.

His answer still failed to please another DAB legislator, Choy So-yuk.

He insisted the lack of public facilities in Central would turn it into a dead city during late night hours, like north Wan Chai.

"The chief executive said in his opening speech that the government should have the courage to review and rectify its decisions.

"So will he consider replanning the Tamar site and make it a more lively, energetic and easily accessible area?" Choy asked.

Tsang insisted Tamar will be his only choice. "I hope everybody can stop arguing about this," he said.

"We endorsed the land-use zoning plan of Central in 2000 and the construction of the new government headquarters at Tamar in 2003. These were the result of a public consensus.

"Of course, it is impossible that this decision will satisfy every individual in society."

He said the government was always being criticized for not making prompt decisions, which was why the government decided to act on the Tamar site project.

He insisted people would have sufficient recreation areas at the site as the new headquarters and legislative council building would only occupy about two hectares of land, leaving more than 10 hectares of recreational space.

Tsang also told Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat, in reply to a question, that the government headquarters would not exceed 160 meters in height so as to lessen its impact on the skyline.

After the session, DAB chairman Ma Lik said the party had never opposed the building of the headquarters at Tamar, but merely wanted the government to consider the feasibility of the southeast Kowloon site.

"We hope the government will also consider our proposal and study the pros and cons of both Tamar and Kai Tak," he said.

Ma said that his party caucus would discuss next week whether or not to support the government when it seeks Legco approval of funding for the headquarters project in June.

"If the government could ... at least relocate some of the government offices to the southeast Kowloon area, we would actively consider supporting the government in the voting exercise," Ma said.

Liberal Party chairman James Tien said his party would support the Tamar site.

"In a small city like Hong Kong, we should not have several government buildings.

"I believe most taxpayers would not want to see the government spending public revenue to construct several new headquarters," Tien said.

Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat said that, as Tsang had reacted positively to the party's demand to build a smaller headquarters, they will consider its funding request.
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Old March 31st, 2006, 06:22 PM   #124
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The Tamar argument that fails to convince
31 March 2006
South China Morning Post

A pattern has emerged for Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's question-and-answer sessions in the Legislative Council. His opening statements have been akin to mini-policy addresses, containing initiatives that naturally seize public attention. When he last appeared in January, Mr Tsang's surprise announcement that civil servants would adopt a five-day week dominated the news for weeks. Yesterday, his statements about pressing ahead with plans to build a new government headquarters at Tamar marked the launch of an intensifying campaign to win public opinion over the controversial project.

By stressing the need for both the government and the Legislative Council to heed public opinion, the chief executive subtly put the blame on legislators for their incessant rows with his administration. His inclusion of specific pledges in his opening remarks not only projected an image of being a strong leader trying to crack difficult issues, but also set the line of questioning by legislators.

Rather than putting him on the spot, legislators' questions have presented Mr Tsang, the skilful communicator, with opportunities to make his case directly to the public. On issues such as Tamar, central slaughtering of chickens, air pollution, a minimum wage, fair competition and the West Kowloon cultural complex, he eloquently outlined his vision and called for community consensus.

On Tamar, the chief executive rejected the views of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong that the government headquarters should be sited at the old Kai Tak airport site in southeast Kowloon. He argued that Hong Kong was a small place, and that siting the government headquarters, Legco and Court of Final Appeal within the central business district would be more efficient and conducive to maintaining our status as a financial centre. He even turned the tables on the legislators, noting that it was an old project that they had approved in 2003, and that southeast Kowloon may not be an area they would like to move to.

But his argument on Tamar is unconvincing. The whole point about relocating the government headquarters out of Central is decentralisation. Central is not the geographical centre of Hong Kong, but its dominance as the central business district has incurred environmental and social costs close to breaking point.

A few Legco panels might have approved the project three years ago, but the council and the public are entitled to change their minds. After all, the project has not started, and critics have since raised serious concerns about its scale and long-term implications on the look and feel of the area and the waterfront.

Nor is the project as urgent as Mr Tsang has made it out to be. The argument that work needs to get under way now to help sustain economic recovery is dubious. Creating employment is a valid policy objective, but the rationale for building a project that will become a lasting icon - or eyesore - should not be contingent upon the need to generate several thousand jobs over the next few years.

The government is said to have secured support for the project from an increasing number of legislators. The community can only hope that both the administration and Legco will really take public opinion into account, as Mr Tsang said they should do, and take time to make sure that we get the development of the harbour right.

Quality of life, sharing the fruits of success, and economic prosperity - the three themes under which the chief executive packaged his policy highlights yesterday - certainly encapsulated key aspirations of Hong Kong people. But as various legislators rightly pointed out, what the public wants is real and tangible progress. Their expectations might not be entirely fair, as many policy issues do take time to resolve. Unfortunately, Mr Tsang is most likely to be able to deliver on a project that should be handled with the least haste - Tamar.
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Old April 1st, 2006, 07:05 PM   #125
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Tsang privately urges tycoons to back Tamar
1 April 2006
South China Morning Post

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has privately lobbied a leading business forum to support building a new government headquarters at the Tamar site, sources familiar with their meeting say.

The chief executive used the meeting to express his dissatisfaction at the lack of support from patrons of the Harbour Business Forum for the controversial project, they said.

Among those meeting Mr Tsang two weeks ago were Hongkong and Shanghai Bank chairman Vincent Cheng Hoi-chuen and top managers of Sun Hung Kai Properties, Jardine Matheson and the Swire Group.

One of the sources, a harbour planner, said: "Mr Tsang told the tycoons that he wasn't happy about the forum's demand for a comprehensive review on the planning of the Central harbourfront.

"Mr Tsang said the planning of the Central waterfront area was approved by the Executive Council in 2000 and it was unnecessary to conduct another review.

"He also made clear the government would like to see a cultural hub in West Kowloon and a cruise terminal in Kai Tak."

The forum had sought the meeting with Mr Tsang two months ago to voice its concerns about development around the harbour.

"Mr Tsang turned the meeting into his lobbying session on Tamar and other harbour projects," the planner said. "Everybody was very quiet after the meeting."

The meeting took place in the same week that officials were engaged in heavy lobbying of harbour activists and pro-democracy legislators to support a scaled-down proposal for a government headquarters.

A government source stressed that the administration was determined to push the project through. "We can negotiate on how the headquarters should be built, but there is no room for discussion on where it should be built. We do not need any further review of planning on the Central waterfront," he said.

The chief executive strongly defended the Central reclamation and building of a government headquarters at Tamar at Legco on Thursday, expressing hopes that members would support its "early implementation".

The forum, a coalition of 120 leading companies and business groups, was formed in June.

The forum has expressed concerns at the huge "ground-scraper" developments planned for the Central reclamation, and voiced fears the headquarters at Tamar would be too large.

A spokeswoman for the Chief Executive's Office and HSBC spokesman David Hall confirmed the meeting had taken place.

Mr Hall said: "It was a private meeting and I am unable to tell [you] what was discussed." He said the forum would continue its harbour campaign.

A harbour walk from Tsim Sha Tsui to Hunghom will be held on April 26.
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Old April 1st, 2006, 07:07 PM   #126
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'Secret' report on HQ revamp released
1 April 2006
South China Morning Post

A "secret study" on the feasibility of redeveloping the Central Government Offices was finally released yesterday after two months of condemnation and accusations from the Legislative Council.

The study was commissioned through the Government Property Agency in 1990 to examine the options for redeveloping the Central Government Offices West Wing in Ice House Street.

The existence of such a report was disclosed by the South China Morning Post in February.

The report estimated the cost of the project, including demolition, at $2.25 billion, yielding 100,000 square metres of gross floor area for government use within three years.

The 10,500-square-metre West Wing site, it said, was "grossly underdeveloped".

It said the redevelopment would make "optimum use" of the site to maximise the development potential in a way that was "practicable and desirable". It suggested the government invite developers to take part, opening 57,500 square metres of floor space to private use, thus generating $424 million in rent every year.

The report will be discussed by the Legislative Council's panel on planning, lands and works on Monday.

Legislator Kwok Ka-ki said the on-site redevelopment was more viable than the Tamar proposal, which would take $6 billion and five years to finish.

"Despite repeated requests from legislators, the government has never specified how much office space is needed for expansion," Mr Kwok said.

"It has never explained how much extra gross floor area can be provided under the Tamar project, either.

"One hundred thousand square metres of space is vast - it should be enough to accommodate government staff. And it's more cost-effective to redevelop existing buildings. It is obviously a more viable option."
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Old April 4th, 2006, 05:05 AM   #127
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Vote reflects frustration over Tamar
Leslie Kwoh
Hong Kong Standard
Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Lawmakers frustrated with the administration's failure to deliver details on the proposed government headquarters at Tamar have passed a confrontational motion in the Legislative Council, but without the support of representatives from two key political parties.

Disappointed with the government's refusal to abide by a previous motion requesting a checklist of all government documents relating to the development of a new headquarters, independent lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki moved a motion recommending members of the Central waterfront review subcommittee hold off on backing the Tamar project until further information can be provided.

"Before the government can clearly state the arrangement and the planning issue of the present central government offices, and carries out a proper environmental impact assessment, and clearly states the urgency and need for building a new government headquarters at Tamar, this committee cannot support the building of the central government offices at Tamar," the motion stated.

The motion was passed by three lawmakers: Kwok, Albert Chan (independent) and Alan Leong (Civic Party). Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing- tat and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong lawmaker Choy So-yuk - both present when copies of the motion were distributed - left the meeting before the vote.

The motion comes amid speculation that Chief Executive Donald Tsang has been intensifying pressure "behind the scenes" on political parties and leading businesses to back the Tamar project, in time for the June 23 vote by the Finance Committee.

At a press conference earlier, Civic Exchange chief executive officer and former lawmaker Christine Loh said her request to meet with Tsang was rejected last week because she did not support the project.

"I met him at a small private luncheon last Friday, and so I took the opportunity to ask him whether it would be possible to meet with him for a private discussion to talk about the Central outline zoning plan and Tamar," Loh said.

"He replied, and I quote: `I would only talk to you if you agree with me."'

Nevertheless, Loh and more than 20 other activists and members of the public marched into the subcommittee meeting to lobby lawmakers to join their cause.

Before her discreet exit from the meeting, Choy told government officials she hoped the administration would listen to the public's cry.

"The government should treat their views as different views, not as opposition," she said.

"These people are working hard to make Hong Kong a better place. They are not trying to overthrow you."

Leong voiced a similar opinion, saying he hoped the administration would "not treat objections as noise, or objectors as enemies."

Leong added the administration should furnish the public with details on the office space breakdown for the proposed headquarters "as soon as possible so that the points brought up today can be addressed and the administration can really convince the public."

But Deputy Director of Administration Susan Mak remained firm and said the subcommittee would be furnished with information regarding space allocation in late April, when the government is due to release its finance proposal for the project. Among the deputations in attendance Monday, only Hong Kong Construction Industry Employees' General Union chairman Choi Chun-wa expressed complete support for the project, saying it would help create badly needed jobs.

"The longer we debate, the longer people are out of jobs. This project will create many jobs for us," he said.

"No more debate, we are desperate and we need jobs."

Other deputations, while expressing sympathy, remained unswayed by the sector's plea. "While we're all sympathetic to the plight of the construction workers, perhaps that's a structural issue and should be addressed separately, not something to drive this project forward," resident Vicki Lukins said.

Meanwhile, in an interview on RTHK Monday Tsang reiterated that the government had "sufficient objective reasons" for the building of the new headquarters, and equated the Tamar project to strong governance.

"This project was approved years ago but was put on hold in 2003 because of cash flow problems. Now we need to make a decision."
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Old April 7th, 2006, 06:58 AM   #128
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DAB Tamar U-turn for public good
Friday, April 07, 2006
Hong Kong Standard

Putting public interest above politics was the reason for the sudden reversal of policy by the main pro-Beijing party to support the new government headquarters proposal at Tamar, a lawmaker insisted.

Lau Kong-wah of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong told the Legislative Council Finance Committee the 10 DAB lawmakers supported the creation of a new post to coordinate the plan.

Lau admitted the U-turn came after Chief Executive Donald Tsang's attendance Tuesday at the party's meeting, where he offered an olive branch in the form of a "core partnership relationship for long-term cooperation on all issues."

Lau said: "The people's interests steered us to support the Tamar plan funding request. Public aspirations had indicated a strong wish for an expeditious completion of the project regardless of the site's location."

Two days after Tsang's visit, the party announced its backing for the new post after receiving a written reply from Director of Administration Elizabeth Tse pledging the government will take into account the DAB proposal to build the headquarters in southeast Kowloon in the final report of all possible sites, to be made public in June.
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Old April 7th, 2006, 10:46 AM   #129
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Old April 7th, 2006, 05:00 PM   #130
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Number crunch
Donald Tsang is determined to push the first phase of the Tamar plan through Legco in a show of strong governance.
Chris Yeung examines whether he has the votes he needs

6 April 2006
South China Morning Post

A temporary venue for activities ranging from the 1997 handover ceremony to trade fairs and outdoor film shows in the past nine years, the Tamar site has been condemned as a disreputable landmark of the beleaguered Tung Chee-hwa administration.

Refraining from revisiting the past official dilly-dallying over the plan to build a new government headquarters at Tamar, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was full of determination in the past week, hoping to fast-track the plan as a showcase of strong governance.

"This government," he told the Legislative Council during question time last week, "has often been told we had discussion without making decisions, made decisions without implementation." The message is unambiguous: now is the time for action.

Mr Tsang insisted Legco gave consent to the project three years ago "but there is still opposition today. I think that has gone overboard."

Against the backdrop of criticism by former premier Zhu Rongji directed at the indecisiveness of the Tung administration, nine years on, the fate of the Tamar site will be put to a vote tomorrow when the government seeks Legislative Council approval for the creation of a directorate post for co-ordinating the new government headquarters project.

Although approval won't be sought until June for major funding for the multibillion-dollar plan, tomorrow's vote is seen as an indicator of the stance of major parties.

Fears of a Legco veto have prompted the director of the Chief Executive's Office, John Tsang Chun-wah, to conduct negotiations with two major parties for a compromise in the past few weeks.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) has insisted the new headquarters should be seated in southeast Kowloon, referring to the Kai Tak site. The Democratic Party, which previously backed the Tamar plan, warned the party might now oppose the plan if its five-point counterproposal was not heeded.

Support from one of the two major factions is crucial to securing a majority for its passage in Legco. The DAB has stood firm on its Kai Tak model. Core members hinted they would not necessarily oppose the Tamar plan if the government could come up with concrete plans to rejuvenate Kai Tak. The Democrats have also indicated room for conditional support. Chairman Lee Wing-tat said this week: "We do not oppose for the sake of opposition."

While the government and the two parties were moving closer to a deal, environmentalists and a business lobby have cautioned against massive development in the area, which they say would aggravate air pollution and cause serious traffic jams. They have called for a thorough review of the development plan for the Central harbourfront area.

A senior government source said: "Putting the Tamar plan back on the drawing board is a non-starter. We've finished all the planning procedures. The next step is to go to the Finance Committee for funding.

"It's hard to say whether it will get enough votes in Legco. Things keep changing. Just look at the Legco vote on the constitutional reform blueprint," he said, referring to the embarrassing defeat of the government.

Defending the Tamar site as the best option, the chief executive has argued that putting the three branches - executive, legislature and judiciary - together would enhance efficiency. It would be fitting to put the new government headquarters near Central, a symbol of the city's financial centre, he said. Importantly, the plan will create more than 2,700 jobs for the construction sector, which has not fully recovered from the 1998 economic downturn.

But a high-ranking government official was doubtful about the way the decision on the Tamar plan had been made.

"Yes, the issue has dragged on for many years. But it's not a case where we have ongoing discussion on the merits and demerits of the plan. Have we provided various options and made comparisons? Have we fully assessed its impact on society as a whole? Have we seriously studied the southeast Kowloon model?

"I wonder why we need to put so many civil servants in Central. Some bureaus and departments should be relocated in other districts to better suit the needs of their work.

"Few places in the world have their government headquarters in the city centre. Like the West Kowloon cultural district project, the Tamar plan should start afresh," said the official.

Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, an Executive Council member and a political scientist, said the public did not seem enthusiastic about the debate on where the government headquarters should be seated.

"People don't seem to have strong views one way or another. Probably the truth is that there is no absolute answer to the question of which is a better location."

He said the government position on the Tamar plan had been clear and consistent. Its thinking is that extra office space is badly needed. Building a headquarters on the Tamar site could free up the Central Government Offices buildings and the Murray Building for redevelopment.

"The situation remains as it has been {hellip} Government is adamant it has made its case clear. The DAB has explained its alternative model well. Environmental groups have stated their position," Professor Cheung said.

"Given one or two more years for debate, the arguments will perhaps remain the same. I can understand why the government wants to take the project forward. There's no massive infrastructure project in the near future. Government needs to keep public works spending going if it wants to create jobs," he said.

Unless the public agrees to leave the Tamar site as it is, Professor Cheung said it would make more sense for the government to be the developer to ensure concerns such as the protection of harbour views were addressed.

The Democratic Party's Mr Lee said his members would consider supporting a middle-of-the-road package that includes drastically reducing the scale of the new government headquarters and keeping the Central Government Offices buildings for conservation.

"The idea of turning the Tamar site into a huge recreation park sounds good. But I don't think the government will agree, even if we vote against the new government headquarters plan. It will lead to nowhere."

Mr Lee said the Democrats were approached by John Tsang last month for discussion on a compromise. "[The] DAB has stood firm against the plan. There's a genuine possibility the project could be vetoed at Legco. We [the Democrats] are ready to be flexible if they respond positively to our demands."

The Democratic Party has proposed turning the offices at Lower Albert Road into a museum. "There's a lot of collective memory about the open space outside government headquarters, where tens of thousands of people have staged demonstrations. It should be saved from demolition," he said.

DAB vice-chairman Lau Kong-wah maintained on Monday its proposal to site the new headquarters in Kai Tak would serve the best interests of society. "The Tamar site can generate huge sums of revenue for the treasury. Officials will of course feel inconvenienced [if they have to move to Kai Tak]. But the overall interest of people is first and foremost in our consideration."

Tuesday, however, saw signs the DAB might make a U-turn, after the chief executive took the unprecedented step of joining the party's central committee meeting to lobby for support.

Chairman Ma Lik praised Mr Tsang for his sincerity; the chief executive described the government-DAB relationship as a "core partnership".

The central committee said its party caucus in Legco could consider voting in favour of the Tamar posting tomorrow, if government responded actively to its southeast Kowloon plan.

Political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said: "Mr Tsang has already prepared a golden staircase for the DAB to climb down [from its opposition to the Tamar plan]."
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Old April 7th, 2006, 05:12 PM   #131
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Quote:
Originally Posted by khoojyh



Victoria Habour-------------> Victoria River

I think they should fill in those yellow and green areas. Is that what they're going to go ahead and do?
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Old April 7th, 2006, 05:45 PM   #132
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I doubt they'll do the yellow part. There was a lot of opposition for the Central Phase 3 Reclamation already. Even some of the green on the Kowloon side is contentious.
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Old April 8th, 2006, 05:33 AM   #133
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Go-ahead for job brings Tamar HQ that little bit closer
Leslie Kwoh
Hong Kong Standard
Saturday, April 08, 2006

After months of intense lobbying by the government, lawmakers have approved funding for an administrative post to oversee the implementation of the Tamar project, bringing one step closer to reality the administration's proposal to build its headquarters at the prime waterfront site.

The Finance Committee Friday engaged in a heated two-hour debate over the HK$115,000 government post, which was earlier approved by a subcommittee in February.

The proposal passed easily 36 to 8, with pro-democracy lawmaker Frederick Fung of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, as the lone abstention.

Among the supporters were 11 lawmakers from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

They had changed their stance after Chief Executive Donald Tsang attended the party's meeting Tuesday to push for a "core partnership relationship for long-term cooperation on all issues." Party member Lau Kong-wah told committee members Friday: "Originally, we were against the creation of the post, but recently we had a discussion with the administration on whether the post could consider other options, such as the party's opinion to build at Southeast Kowloon instead.

"Our only criteria is that by June, the government makes public all its findings."

Lau's statement angered more than a few lawmakers, who accused the party of making excuses.

"I don't know what was said to the DAB to change their minds, but the government should tell the public and the DAB clearly whether it has decided to build at Tamar, or whether it is still studying other options," said independent lawmaker Albert Chan.

Committee chairman Emily Lau agreed with Chan, demanding Director of Administration Elizabeth Tse explain why the government had earlier indicated its "mind was set," but was now saying it had an "open mind."

Tse admitted: "I don't think we can say we have an open mind. I don't think there can be any negotiation about building at Southeast Kowloon. We want to persuade parties that Tamar is the right choice."

The responsibility of lobbying the remaining opposition parties, Tse said, would go to the holder of the new post.

She added, however, that the government would still "look at" and "actively analyze" different views put forth by members of the public.

Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Frederick Ma reminded members that the project would create an estimated 2,700 new jobs for the construction sector.

"No project, no jobs," he said. "If you don't give your blessing, then fewer jobs will be created."

But neither Ma nor Tse could guarantee that the project would use local labor and materials - as suggested by labor constituency lawmakers - saying that World Trade Organization agreements prohibited favoring local workers.

Those who opposed the proposal - including five members of the Civic Party and independent lawmakers Kwok Ka-ki, Albert Chan and "Long- hair" Leung Kwok-hung - remained firm despite the fact that they were a minority.

"The government should have understood long ago that its planning mechanism is outdated," Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong said.

"In the past eight to 10 years, civic society has wanted more participating in planning."

Leung followed by questioning the practicality of approving the post before the project, calling it a "waste of resources on something that may not materialize."

And Chan waxed biblical, equating the chief executive to God.

"For a devout Christian, all honor belongs to God," he said.

"In Hong Kong, a lot of honor, power and privileges rests with the chief executive. Now the last remaining prime site is going to be built into government offices to give greater honor to him."

After the meeting, Kwok said he was "disappointed" but "not surprised" by the results.

"It's political reality. Most of the members who voted are not thinking about planning issues, but their own political agenda," he said.

"They don't have any principles at all."
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Old April 10th, 2006, 01:42 AM   #134
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Tamar plan flaws outlined
Leslie Kwoh
Hong Kong Standard
Monday, April 10, 2006



Braving fickle skies and droves of Sunday shoppers, a handful of determined lawmakers took to the bustling streets of Mong Kok to enlist the public's support in their quest to halt the Tamar development project.

Braving fickle skies and droves of Sunday shoppers, a handful of determined lawmakers took to the bustling streets of Mong Kok to enlist the public's support in their quest to halt the Tamar development project.

The Democratic Party's Lee Wing- tat, the Civic Party's Alan Leong and independent lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki jointly hosted an open-air forum to outline the main issues of the debate over the government's proposal to build its headquarters at the waterfront site.

The forum took place just two days after the Legislative Council's Finance Committee approved funding for a HK$115,000 administrative post to oversee implementation of the project.

Lee, whose party voted in support of the post, said the government still had to answer a number of issues before it could win the party's approval for the project - including concerns about the density of the buildings, the amount of open space, pedestrian accessibility to the harbor, and preserving the existing headquarters as a historical site.

"We supported the post, but it does not mean we'll support giving the government HK$4 billion to HK$5 billion in June," he said. "We hope by then they will have more detailed answers to the points we have brought up."

He called on the government to initiate an "active dialogue" with the public, saying he felt administrative officials and concern groups had reached an "impasse" in their discussions as "neither side appears to be listening."

Leong said: "People want to know that 30 or 50 years down the road, the next generation will be enjoying open public areas, not walking in a perpetual marketplace."

After explaining the Civic Party opposed the project because the government has failed to answer inquiries concerning its urgency and scale, Leong stood up and fired a barrage of questions at the gathering crowd.

"Does that piece of land belong to us? Don't you want to know who will be moving into it? Do you want to be able to walk to the waterfront? Are you satisfied with the information the government has given us thus far? Have you voiced your opinion yet?" Leong said.

"If you have opinions, express them in the next two months. Make some noise."

Kwok held up a poster illustrating the site, saying the government's plans to construct buildings between 130 meters and 160m tall will "create a wall" between Admiralty and the harbor.

"The government thinks it is compromising because it originally proposed 180m," he said. "But their approach is unclear, they have furnished us with very little information."

Bystanders said they felt the forum was "informative" and "compelling." Manager Yu Yaofeng, 28, said: "I had heard about Tamar before, but I didn't know a great deal about the issues."
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Old April 11th, 2006, 07:48 AM   #135
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Old April 11th, 2006, 11:51 AM   #136
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It's times like these that I wish the gov't more powerful and the Legco less antagonistic...

build them tall, build them all!
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Old April 11th, 2006, 01:11 PM   #137
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All this recent land reclamation is a disgrace to Hong Kong. It simply makes is uglier and less friendly.
Sorry.
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Old April 11th, 2006, 02:08 PM   #138
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When is the new Star Ferry Terminal opening?
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Old April 14th, 2006, 06:18 AM   #139
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Hong Kong harbours deep ambitions for wasteland sites
Plans to transform prime areas will put the chief executive to the test

By TOM MITCHELL
12 April 2006
Financial Times

On days when the pollution is less severe, executives with a bird's-eye view of Hong Kong's harbour can discern three great scars on the waterfront.

To the west, more than 100 acres of land have lain fallow for five years despite being designated as the site of a future "cultural district". To the east, golfers hone their driving range skills on the abandoned runway of Hong Kong's old Kai Tak airport, which closed in 1998.

And in the heart of the territory's central business and financial district, an empty expanse of Tarmac marks the site of the former shelter - long since filled in - where Royal Navy ships once moored and where the Hong Kong government intends to build its new HKDollars 4.5bn (Dollars 580m) headquarters building.

The Tamar site, as it is known, too has been abandoned for almost a decade, only sporadically serving as a venue for an outdoor film festival, rock concert or travelling circus.

Since being selected last July to serve out the final two years of the term abandoned by his predecessor, Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang has seized on two of these sites as testing grounds for what he has promised will be a new era of "strong government" and "effective execution".

His administration, however, is already on the back foot. In February it said it would revamp its plans for the West Kowloon Cultural District, which was to host facilities run by some of the world's great museums, after local developers balked at the government's terms.

Coming two months after the Hong Kong's legislature rejected a limited constitutional reform package, the West Kowloon climbdown marked the second big defeat of Mr Tsang's young administration.

Now the focus is on the controversial new government headquarters at Tamar. Mr Tsang has pushed the project to the top of his agenda, in spite of concerns from a range of civic and professional groupings about the environmental impact the new headquarters and a neighbouring landfill project will have on Hong Kong's already blighted waterfront.

A defeat would be the third strike for Mr Tsang, leaving him with precious few accomplishments less than a year before he seeks re-election to a full five-year term and it would also invite unflattering comparisons with his predecessor's ineffectual administration.

"If Tamar fails, then what did he mean by 'strong governance'?" asks Democratic party chairman Lee Wing-tat, who has provisionally supported the new headquarters project. The chief executive's office counters that the West Kowloon Cultural District will be completed on schedule.

"We have opted for a new development model and a steering panel was formed last week," a spokesman said. The Tamar project, he added, is merely being revived three years after Hong Kong's Sars outbreak forced its suspension.

Failure on Tamar would augur badly for a raft of further initiatives that Mr Tsang intends to pursue. Some of these, including the possible introduction of a minimum wage and a new competition policy, are opposed by powerful commercial interests in the territory.

The December constitutional reform package required two-thirds support from Hong Kong's legislature because it involved changes to the territory's mini-constitution, or Basic Law.

With 25 seats in the 60-member legislature, the pro-democracy camp found itself in the unusual position of having enough votes to block a government bill, which it deemed too modest.

For Tamar, Mr Tsang only needs the endorsement of a simple majority of the legislature. But even this target is proving elusive, illustrating the rising power of Hong Kong's political parties.

The pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), which has traditionally supported the government on policy issues, wants the new headquarters to be built at Kai Tak, the old airport.

The government hopes to build an ocean liner terminal there instead, and says a preliminary zoning plan for the area will be ready by June.

The DAB's reticence has forced Mr Tsang to scramble to secure the support of a normally automatic ally and its nine votes in the legislature. While a final funding vote on the headquarters building is not scheduled until June, on Friday the government secured Legco approval to appoint a project director.

With the DAB's initial opposition to Tamar softening, Mr Tsang will likely get his new headquarters building. But that will still leave hanging the future of two other wastelands on what used to be one of the world's most beautiful harbours.
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Old April 14th, 2006, 06:46 AM   #140
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marco Polo
All this recent land reclamation is a disgrace to Hong Kong. It simply makes is uglier and less friendly.
Sorry.
Agreed!

Leave the flipping harbour as it is.

Soon we'll be able to swim across comfortably - and before you know it, Hong Kong's claim to "World's most beautiful harbour" will have disappeared. It's ridiculous.
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