LegCo Round Up May 26 to 29

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Audit on Buildings Department’s actions taken on unauthorised building works and subdivided flats. Future development of Hong Kong Electricity Market. Debate over political reform continues.

May 26 Tuesday

Second hearing on the Buildings Department’s actions on unauthorised building works
Audit report criticises delay of action orders. Building Department, constituted by 732 staff members, has been investigating unauthorised building works and building safety/maintenance work in Hong Kong. A total of 405,261 unauthorised building works had been removed from 2001 to 2010, and 69,298 from 2011 to 2014.

Director of Audit’s report criticises the Department for the “long time taken in issuing removal orders on actionable unauthorised building works.” The audit revealed that, as of October 2014, Building Department has yet to issue removal orders concerning 4,522 public reports of unauthorised building works. It is said that official inspections had taken place, ranging from more than six months to five years ago.

The report also notes “significant slippages in completing large scale operations on subdivided flats.” In 2011-2014, the Department had conducted 7 large scale operations on subdivided flats, covering a total of 1,092 target buildings. Of the 7 operations, 5 were conducted by the Department in-house officers and 2 by engaging 10 consultancies at a total cost of $12.4 million.

Alan Leong Ka-kit (GC – Kowloon East, Civic Party) challenges the credibility of the Department’s claim to eradicate unauthorised building works, earlier, “The removal orders are too late, or simply non-existent. As for the already issed removal orders, [the Department] does not seem would enforce them by imposing an encumbrance or charging.“ Director of Buildings Hui Siu Wai explained that the Department was not able to handle all reports at once, the Department also would not consider charging violators unless such measure is direly needed.

Meeting of Subcommittee on Proposals on the Method for Selecting the Chief Executive in 2017
Pan-dems are disappointed by the Government’s unwillingness to democratise the political reform bill, and state that they will vote no on the reform bill unless amendments negating pre-selection of candidates will be added.

Secretary for Constituional and Mainland Affarts Tam Chi-Yuen reiterates that the reform bill is drafted in accordance to the Basic Law and framework designed by the National People’s Congress. He suggests that the Government has already made CE candidacy more accessible than before. The secretary refuses to answer LegCo member Helena Wong Bik-Wan’s (GC – Kowloon West, Democratic Party) enquiry regarding whether the Government would consider amendments after the conference between LegCo members and representatives from the central government. The conference will be held this Sunday in Shenzhen.

Extended read on political reform:

  1. Rao Ge-ping, member of the Basic Law Committee and a law professor at Peking University, says it might be viable to change corporate votes to individual votes. Chief Secreatry, Carrie Lam, however rules out any possibility to amend the proposed bill by the Government.
  2. Beijing officials will meet all LegCo members this Sunday; but some pan-dems like Gary Fan, Emily Lau say they will not attend the meeting. Representatives from the Chinese side include Li Fei, Deputy Secretary-General of National People’s Congress Standing Committee and Chairman of Basic Law Committee, and Wang Guangya, Director of the State Council’s HK and Macau Affairs Office.

May 27 Wednesday

Meeting of Establishment Subcommittee
The subcommittee voted down the proposal of Three-Runway System for Hong Kong International Airport to create three new supernumerary posts, including one AO, one Principal Government Engineer, and one Chief Engineer in the Airport Expansion Project Coordination Office under the Transport Branch of Transport and Housing Bureau. Albert Chan’s (GC – New Territories West, People Power) motion to adjourn the proposal was approved with 19 to 12.

Discussion underway regarding proposed retention of a Chief Engineer in the Railway Development Office of Highways Department to continue assisting MTR with the Hong Kong section of Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link project.

Meeting of Panel on Economic Development
The panel discusses possibility of opening Hong Kong’s electricity market to more power companies. Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing suggests that electricity prices are determined by various factors including energy sources, operation costs, etc. Opening of the electricity market does not necessarilly equate to cheaper electricity.

WWF demands Hongkong Electric and and CLP Power to adopt the feed-in tariff (payments from power companies to renewable energy generators to buy renewable energy for their grids) upon renewal of the Scheme of Control Agreements in 2018. According to WWF’s phone poll, 66% of 1030 interviewees supports the two major electric companies in Hong Kong to buy electicity from orgnisations which generate power from renewable energy sources. Over half of the interviewees would consider investing in renewable energy if the two major companies would buy power from renewable energy producers. 83% agree that the Government should gradually replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.

Public consultation regarding future development of the electricity market in Hong Kong will end on 30 June.

Council meeting
Filibustering ended with all amendments negatived. Following Albert Chan’s speech to lambaste the Government and the pro-establishment camp, Paul Tse (GC- Kowloon East) gave an impromptu speech as a rebuttal. Tse also said the Government ought to responsibly break some “gentlemen’s agreements” for the sake of maintaining order. Pan-dems expressed their disapproval.

Priscilla Leung Mei-fun (GC – Kowloon West, Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong) submitted an amendment to Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance. She proposes to allow property owners of deteriorating old buildings to legally delay their payments for government reprovision of fire service installations. She believes that the amendment would help property owners in her district who find difficult to pay for the installation costs before their deadlines for upgrading their fire service installations.

May 28 Thursday

Continuation of Council meeting (CE Q&A Session in early morning)
Answering Ng Leung-sing’s (FC – Finance, no political affiliation) question regarding the Government’s development plans for the local finance industry, the CE said the SAR government would closely adhere to the central government’s thirteenth five-year plan, like ‘one belt one road’ policy and AIIB.

Tommy Cheung Yu-yan (FC – Catering, Liberal Party) asked whether would the Government consider importing doctors from overseas, since Hong Kong’s public health care is in a shortage of doctors. The CE replied that the Government might consider Cheung’s suggestion, but does not find that necessary at the moment.

Federick Fung Kin-kee (FC – District Council Second, Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood) enquired whether the Government would consider revoking the reform bill. The CE replied that the reform bill is not a government bill, but a decision made by the National People’s Congress. He also indicated that chances the NPC would change their mind is “zero”.

Continuation of Council meeting (Afternoon)
Appropriation Bill passed with 37 to 14, no abstains. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah told the media that the government’s cash flow would resume to normal state by mid-June. As none of the amendments proposed by pan-dems passed, one of the implications is that water cannons will be purchased for the Hong Kong Police Force.



May 29 Friday

Finance Committee Meeting
The deliberation for Kai Tak Sport Complex would be carried onto today’s meeting originally, but the Government has the construction of Liantang/Heung Yuen Wai Boundary Control Point on the agenda instead. An $8,719.9 million increase is added onto the total estimated cost of the Boundary Control Point project, mainly for site formation and infrastructure works. The total estimated cost of the project rises from $16,253.2 million to $24,973.1 million; in which $8,811.9 million would be spent on constructing buildings and associated facilities.