Lawmakers slam choice of temporary office for next leader

HONG KONG • The Hong Kong government has come under fire for siting the temporary office for the Chief Executive-elect in the city's most expensive business area.

The Legislative Council (Legco) was not consulted on the choice of location, which will cost taxpayers HK$40 million (S$7 million), according to Hong Kong media.

Members of both the pan-democratic and pro-establishment camps hit out at the administration for bypassing them after learning that a contract for the temporary office in the business district of Central had already been inked this month.

The office, which takes up a whole floor in Champion Tower on Garden Road, will cost HK$17 million to fit out and reinstate. Another HK$13 million will go towards rent for eight months, and HK$10 million will be used to pay support staff, reported the South China Morning Post.

But the city's next leader, to be elected in March, will occupy the office for only three months from April to June. He will move to the government headquarters in Admiralty after taking office in July.

During the last Chief Executive election in 2012, the government budgeted only HK$8 million for the Chief Executive-elect's office. It was located at the former central government headquarters on Lower Albert Road.

The Legislative Council was not consulted on the choice of location of the Chief Executive-elect's temporary office, which will cost taxpayers HK$40 million (S$7 million), according to Hong Kong media.

Lawmaker Lau Kwok Fan, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, asked why the government did not choose one of its own premises but opted instead for an expensive private office.

Legislator Chan Chi Chuen, of People Power, said: "Why don't you choose a vacated school? Even if you turn it into a palace, you need only tens of millions of dollars."

Mr Bobby Cheng, deputy director of administration, said the government could not find vacant sites within government offices in the districts of Central and Admiralty.

He said the sum was included in this year's government budget, so there was no need to seek additional approval from Legco, said the Post.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2017, with the headline 'Lawmakers slam choice of temporary office for next leader'. Print Edition | Subscribe