SCMP Thursday, November 8, 2001

Tower complaint went to Beijing


Property tycoon Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum had complained to mainland civil aviation authorities over a height restriction that shattered her dream of building the tallest building in the world, a court heard yesterday.
Peter Lok Kung-nam, former director of civil aviation in Hong Kong, told the Court of First Instance that he had taken Ms Wang's complaint to the Civil Aviation Administration of China seriously and suggested that two experts from his department could explain the issue in Beijing.
Mr Lok was testifying for the Government in a legal battle against Ms Wang, chairwoman of the Chinachem Group, over a building project in Yeung Uk Road, Tsuen Wan.
Chinachem objects to having to pay more than $550 million in penalties to the Government for the late completion of the project.
Ms Wang originally planned to construct the 108-storey, 522-metre Nina Tower, which would have been the world's tallest building, on the site.
But the project fell through after the Government imposed a height limit of 324 metres in April 1996 because of the site's proximity to Chek Lap Kok airport.
A scaled-down twin-tower design and transport terminus has since been completed.
The present Convenor of the Executive Council, Leung Chun-ying, earlier testified that Bowen Leung Po-wing, former secretary for planning, environment and lands, had agreed to extend the contract free of additional charges in a meeting on June 8, 1995, and during a follow-up telephone conversation in the same month.
Bowen Leung has denied any deal.
Mr Lok said yesterday he had never indicated to Leung Chun-ying, who was acting as a consultant for Ms Wang, that the 324-metre height limit could be lifted and said that he had repeatedly told him that it depended on the results of a computer modelling system test.
Chinachem is seeking a declaration that it should not be held responsible for construction delays and penalties.
The hearing continues before Deputy Judge Gerard Muttrie.