Following is a question by the Hon Leung Kwok-hung and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (May 21):
PMQ is a revitalisation project implemented at the former Police Married Quarters on Hollywood Road. After the Secretary for Development replied to my question on PMQ on the 8th of this month, quite a number of members of the public, tenants of PMQ and conservation organisations have relayed to me that some parts of the reply are disputable. In addition, it has recently been reported by the media that the PMQ Management Company Limited (the management company) has faults in managing the project. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as the Government indicated in its reply that 90 per cent of the 130 or so studio units and eight commercial units at PMQ had been leased out, whether the Government knows the number of studio and commercial units which had opened for business on each floor at present;
(2) as the Government indicated in its reply that the management company had, in view of the actual circumstances, decided that the commencement of the rental periods for the studio units should be revised to start from May 1, 2014, if the Government knows:
(a) what "the actual circumstances" refer to and whether they include requests initiated by the tenants and offers initiated by the management company;
(b) whether the management company has informed all the tenants of the aforesaid decision; if it has, of the means and date; if not, the reasons for that;
(c) whether the management company had, prior to making the aforesaid decision, requested tenants to pay rents and open for business from April this year; if it had, of the number of tenants involved; and
(d) whether any tenant has paid for the rents for April this year earlier on; if so, of the number of such tenants, and whether the management company will refund to them the rents for April;
(3) whether it knows if Chocolate Rain, a local brand, is a tenant of PMQ and if its persons-in-charge/shareholders are members of the tenant selection committee; if the answers to both questions are in the affirmative, of the justification of the Government for stating that "no conflict of interest was found during the tenant selection process" in its reply;
(4) as the Government indicated in its reply that the first eatery in PMQ had opened for business at the end of April, whether the Government knows the name, location, opening date, business hours and type of catering service of the said eatery;
(5) as some members of the public have complained that the glass podium floor, the transparent staircases in the main building and the glass fences of PMQ have become black spots where women may be peeped on, whether the Government has requested the management company to follow up on the problem and make improvements immediately; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(6) as the Government indicated in its reply that there were 71 000 people visiting PMQ for the first 13 days since its partial opening in mid-April, whether the Government knows the number of female visitors among them; whether it has assessed the number of female visitors who were affected by the problem referred to in (5);
(7) whether it knows if PMQ has solicited a number of famous brands and bars to be its tenants; if PMQ has, whether the Government has evaluated if this practice runs against the Government's policy objective to conserve the historic building; and
(8) whether it knows if any eateries at PMQ have been issued with liquor licences; if they have, of the dates of issuance and number of the licences issued; whether the authorities concerned have consulted the residents in the local community and conducted assessment on the impacts of alcohol sale at PMQ on such residents when considering the relevant licence applications; if they have not, of the reasons for that?
As regards the questions raised by Hon Leung Kwok-hung, the replies are as follow:
(1) PMQ Management Company Limited (PMQ Ltd) advised that about 80 tenants have already commenced operation. Other tenants who had signed the leases had also set dates for commencing operation progressively.
(2)(a) PMQ Ltd advised that it is a registered charitable organisation, operating on a self-financing basis. They consider the tenants as important components in the establishment of a new creative industries landmark for Hong Kong, and have been proactive in maintaining communication with the tenants. They have also been evaluating the development of the whole project in a timely manner and are making prudent decisions to ensure the sustainability of the project.
(b) PMQ Ltd advised that they had notified the tenants by email on April 27, 2014 that the rental period would commence on May 1, 2014.
(c) PMQ Ltd advised that all the leases signed with studio tenants had included a two-month rent-free period. The rent-free period commenced on the date of taking over of the units by the tenants. However, PMQ Ltd also advised that they had notified the concerned tenants that the rental period would commence on May 1, 2014.
(d) PMQ Ltd advised that any rental payment balance could be deducted from the rent for May.
(3) PMQ Ltd advised that they had set up two tenant selection committees to be responsible for the selection of commercial and studio tenants respectively. Members of the tenant selection committees had already made declaration on any conflict of interest with respect to tenant selection. It was noted that no conflict of interest was reported during the tenant selection process. For studio tenant application process, PMQ Ltd invited 52 industry leaders in the creative industries to form assessment panels. The application proposals were distributed to members of the assessment panel for assessment based on the results of a ballot. The assessment results were submitted to the tenant selection committee for making a decision. The marks awarded to each proposal were given by not less than five members of the assessment panel in two assessment stages. The assessment panel members had no right to make any decision on the tenant selection, and they also needed to declare any conflict of interest before conducting the assessments. According to records, there was no conflict of interest reported during the assessment process. The founder of "Chocolate Rain" is one of the 52 members of the assessment panel for studio units and is only responsible for some of the assessments for studio units. She had already made declaration on any conflict of interest and she was not a member of the tenant selection committee. It is thus considered that there is no conflict of interest in this case. The unit leased by her is a commercial unit, and its proposal was handled by a separate and independent tenant selection committee for commercial units. The leasing conditions for that unit are similar to that for other commercial units, and there is no special treatment.
(4) PMQ Ltd advised that the name of the restaurant unit is "SHOWcase by bread n butter", located in units "HG-01" to "HG-05" on G/F of Block B at "PMQ". It has already commenced operation on April 30, 2014 and is a French cafe. The normal operating hours are from 11am to 8pm.
(5) Both the Architectural Services Department and PMQ Ltd attach great importance to the views of the public. The improvement works have already been completed, including installation of panels between the treads of open staircases and the placement of opaque stickers at some critical areas of the glass balustrades. Besides, display boards have also been installed on the underside of the skylights of the underground interpretation area to address concerns on the sightline issue.
(6) PMQ Ltd advised that the record of numbers of visitors were not classified by gender.
(7) PMQ Ltd advised that PMQ is a new creative industries landmark in Hong Kong. As a platform for promoting innovation and "co-creation", PMQ would group elites from various categories in design and creative industries including experienced designers. In this connection, diverse creative and design based exhibitions and activities will be organised by "PMQ" in collaboration with tenants, local and non-local creative communities, education institutions and other non-profit-making organisations to showcase Hong Kong's design excellence, and to promote the exchange of creative ideas.
Besides, PMQ Ltd has acquired charitable status under Section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance (Cap. 112) for the implementation of the project on a self-financing and self-sustainable basis. In this connection, there is a need to generate income through commercial activities to meet the operational expense of "PMQ" and subsidise the studio tenants' operation.
"PMQ" has introduced creative-driven products and special food and beverage facilities to enhance the attractiveness of the whole project and enrich the shopping and leisure experience of visitors.
(8) Based on the information provided by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), as at May 12, 2014, the Liquor Licensing Board (LLB) had received applications for new issue of a liquor licence from five premises in "PMQ". All of these applications are being processed.
The LLB is an independent statutory body established under the Dutiable Commodities (Liquor) Regulations (Cap. 109B) (the Regulations) to consider applications for liquor licence. When examining a liquor licence application, the LLB is required to give due consideration to all relevant issues under Regulation 17(2) of the Regulations, including whether the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold the licence; whether the location and structure of the premises and their fire safety and hygienic conditions are suitable for the sale of liquor; and whether the grant of the licence is contrary to the public interest.
The LLB attaches great importance to the views of the local community. After receiving an application for a liquor licence, in addition to consulting the Police and other relevant Government departments, the LLB will also gauge the views of local representatives through the concerned District Office. Depending on the characteristics of the community, the consultees normally include District Council members, relevant residents' organisations and stakeholders. At the same time, the applicant is required to place an advertisement in newspapers, and the same will also be posted on the LLB webpage. Staff of the FEHD will also post three notices at the conspicuous places of the building where the premises under application are located. Residents can raise their objections against the liquor licence application to the LLB. If there is objection, an open hearing will be held. The applicant and the objector(s) will be invited to attend the hearing to present their arguments. The LLB will arrive at an independent decision on each application after listening to and taking into consideration the views from various parties. When granting a liquor licence, the LLB will decide whether to impose any additional licensing conditions in light of the circumstances pertaining to each individual case.
Ends/Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Issued at HKT 14:30