Following is the transcript of the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, at a media session at the ground floor of the Central Government Offices (West Wing) today (September 20):
Reporter: The Government has continued the reclamation works and has been accused of not abiding the law to implement the project. What is your response?
Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands: I think the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance provides for the possibility of reclamation but the presumption is against reclamation which means that if we want to propose a reclamation project it is for the Government to justify the reclamation, to show that it is absolutely necessary, that there is no alternative and that the amount of land to be reclaimed is the minimum. These are the criteria laid down by the judge who has reviewed the judicial review case. We are applying those tests to the Central reclamation which is underway and we are satisfied that the reclamation meets in all respects these tests laid down by the judge. So we believe that that being the case there is no reasonable justification for us to delay the project in view of the urgency and the present need for the project, which is for relief of the very overcrowded traffic situation in the area.
Reporter: The Protection for the Harbour Society said they would seek a judicial review some time next week. What will the Government do?
Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands: I hope not because we have substantially reduced the area for the reclamation. You'll recall that originally we proposed a much bigger reclamation. But in the process of considering those objections to the original proposal, we have scaled down the amount of reclamation. We are satisfied as I've just said that the amount of reclamation proposed now is the minimum required for the nature of the work required. We have seen a draft plan proposed by the Society for the reclamation done some time ago and the extent of reclamation is more or less coincidental with what we are doing at the moment.
Reporter: Are there any clause in the contract for the Government to pull out?
Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands: On the basis that we provide for compensation, it's possible but then it is going to be a very expensive undertaking for the Government if we were to pull out. As I've said the most important thing is that this is an important reclamation to support the road works which are required to relieve the very congested traffic which exists in the Central District.
Reporter: How expensive will that be?
Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands: We haven't actually made a decision to withdraw. It really depends on the terms of the withdrawal if we have to do that. On the ballpark figure, it amounts to about a million dollars per day.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
End/Saturday, September 20, 2003