Following is a question by the Hon David Li Kwok-po and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (November 16):
It has been learnt that from time to time investigative reports appear in the press about individual short-term tenancies (STTs) and waivers issued by the Lands Department (LandsD) that grant a private party the temporary right to use Government land or property, or to change land use. These reports often highlight an alleged special privilege or benefit gained by the party that holds the STT or waiver, and regardless of whether such claims are true or not, they invariably raise public concern. In this regard, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the Government policy in respect of the release of information to the public on STTs and waivers not subject to tender in advance of issuance and renewal;
(b) whether LandsD will consider publishing a database of all pending and existing STTs and waivers not subject to tender on its website in order to increase transparency and clarify the public's doubts;
(c) whether LandsD will consider making it a requirement for the holder of an STT or waiver not subject to tender to register the document granting the STT or waiver with the Land Registry; and
(d) whether LandsD will consider publishing on its website the details of any STT or waiver granted at a nominal charge or a charge at non-market rate?
The Government may put vacant land to temporary uses by granting short term tenancies (STTs) through open tender or directly to applicants normally on support from the relevant Policy Bureau on policy grounds. For land already subject to leases granted by the Government, waivers may be granted by the Government on application by the lessees for waiving certain specific conditions under the leases. Such STTs and waivers are processed by the Lands Department (LandsD) according to the applicable procedures.
My reply to the four parts of the question is as follows seriatim:
(a) LandsD is acting in the landlord capacity in negotiating and settling the terms with a prospective tenant for a direct grant of STT or with a lessee in respect of a waiver application. At the moment, we do not have a policy to release information in relation to such STT or waiver applications in advance of issue or renewal having regard to the considerations referred to in (b) below.
(b) Direct grants of STT are normally granted on support from the relevant Policy Bureaux on policy grounds and there are no plans to disclose details of such applications pending consideration by the relevant Bureaux and Departments. Further, information provided by the applicants during the application stage is primarily intended for the processing of their applications and the applicants may make changes in the process. It is considered not appropriate to publish the concerned information when an application is being considered. The waiver documents, once approved and executed, will be registered at the Land Registry and interested persons may inspect such information at the Land Registry.
(c) A main reason for registration of land documents at the Land Registry is to provide intending purchasers or mortgagees with access to information on the ownership of or encumbrance upon the land and/or the property. The Government normally prohibits alienation of STTs and hence registration of STTs is not considered necessary. As for the waiver documents, they will be registered in the Land Registry after execution.
(d) In recent years, we attach importance to increasing transparency in our land administration work, for example, publishing and updating on a regular basis information concerning Public Open Space in Private Developments and private columbaria. I have asked LandsD to consider, taking account of workload implications on the department, how we may release information on new STTs granted directly to an organisation at a nominal charge. As explained above, the waiver documents, once executed, will be registered in the Land Registry and separate disclosure by LandsD of wavier applications approved is not considered necessary.
Ends/Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:30