Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article news.gov.hk
LCQ3: Barrier-free facilities in The Link's properties
******************************************************

     Following is a question by the Hon Lau Kong-wah and a reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, in the Legislative Council today (November 24):

Question:

     It has been learnt that The Link Real Estate Investment Trust ("The Link"), after taking over the 180 properties (including shopping centres, fresh markets and carpark facilities) from the Hong Kong Housing Authority in 2005, has vigorously renovated its facilities to increase their rental value, but has not actively dealt with the problem of insufficient barrier-free facilities in its properties for the convenience of people with disabilities ("PWDs") and the elderly.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it has compiled statistics on the number of properties of The Link (including shopping centres, fresh markets and carpark facilities, etc.) which do not have up-to-standard barrier-free facilities; if it has, whether it knows the percentage of the number of such properties in the total number of properties under The Link and where such properties are mainly located;

(b) whether it knows, among the properties in (a) which have substandard barrier-free facilities, the number of properties for which The Link has completed or commenced improvement works; whether improvement will also be made to the remaining properties; the specific plan, timetable and latest progress of such improvement works; and whether The Link will reduce rents for those properties for which it has no plan for implementing improvement works; and

(c) whether it knows that there are barriers for PWDs in the barrier-free facilities in some of The Link's properties, e.g., some toilets for the wheelchair-bound can only be accessed via staircases, and to use elevators, users must first push open smoke doors, etc.; whether the authorities will urge The Link to re-examine and improve all the facilities in its properties from the perspective of users and create a genuine barrier-free environment so as to fulfill its corporate social responsibility?

Reply:

President,

     After the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) divested its 180 commercial and car-parking facilities through the listing of The Link Real Estate Investment Trust (The Link REIT) in November 2005, The Link REIT has become a private organisation which is entirely independent of the Government and the HA, and the management of its properties is currently taken up by The Link Management Limited (LML).  The Government and the HA will not and cannot intervene in the day-to-day operation and business management of the LML.  Just like any other private organisation, the LML must ensure that the operation of The Link REIT and its properties are in compliance with the statutory requirements under relevant ordinances, including the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO) (Cap. 487) and the Buildings Ordinance (BO) (Cap. 123).

     As regards the compliance with the DDO, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), being the independent statutory body for the enforcement of the DDO, will accept, process and follow up complaints about barrier-free facilities.  This is to ensure that the premises which will be used and accessed by the people with disabilities (PWDs) in general can provide accessible facilities for the PWDs in a non-discriminatory manner, enabling them to access the premises and obtain the services therein on equal grounds.  Any proposed new structures and proposed alterations or additions to the existing structures must comply with the prevailing requirements under the BO, its subsidiary legislation, and other codes of practice issued by the Building Authority (BA) pursuant to the BO including the "Design Manual: Barrier Free Access 2008" (Design Manual 2008) which set out the requirements for the provision of barrier-free access and facilities.

     The first two parts of the Hon Lau's question involve the private properties of The Link REIT managed by the LML.  As mentioned above, The Link REIT has become a private organisation upon listing, and it is entirely independent of the Government and the HA.  The Government and the HA have no involvement in the day-to-day operation and management of the properties of The Link REIT which is taken up by the LML.  As such, the Administration has not kept any relevant information.  However, in view of the Hon Lau's concerns, we have enquired with the LML in this respect.  Having consolidated the information provided by the LML and the reply from the Labour and Welfare Bureau (LWB) in respect of its policy purview, my responses to the three parts of the question are as follows.

(a) According to the LML, the 180 commercial properties (including shopping centres, markets and car parks) under The Link REIT were built in different years.  At the time of construction, these properties all complied with the relevant prevailing requirements for the provision of barrier-free facilities.  As things have progressed over the years and people's needs have changed, the LML has carried out a number of repairs and minor improvement works for the properties since 2005 when it took up the management work.  Furthermore, in carrying out the renovation works for the shopping centres, the LML will make reference to the latest codes of practice and standards for the provision of barrier-free access and facilities, including the Design Manual 2008 issued by the BA, so that comprehensive, large-scale improvement works can be implemented for the provision of additional barrier-free facilities in its shopping centres to enable those in need to use its commercial facilities.

(b) According to the LML, renovations have been completed in 17 shopping centres so far.  For commercial facilities which have not been included in the renovation programmes, the LML has recently finished a preliminary review.  After taking into account the latest standards and requirements for the provision of barrier-free access and facilities as well as the views of the EOC, the LML will formulate a comprehensive overall improvement works programme in collaboration with experts in barrier-free facilities by end of 2010.

     The overall improvement works programme will cover all the commercial properties of The Link REIT.  According to the LML, the barrier-free facilities in the commercial properties of The Link REIT will be upgraded to the latest standards as far as reasonable and practicable.  Moreover, the LML will continue to keep in close contact with the EOC and organisations for the PWDs and listen to their views to ensure that the improvement measures meet their needs.

(c) As mentioned above, the LML has to ensure that the properties under The Link REIT are conformed to the statutory requirements under relevant ordinances, including the DDO.  As the independent statutory body for the enforcement of the DDO, the EOC will follow up complaints about barrier-free facilities to make sure that the premises which will be used and accessed by the PWDs in general can provide accessible facilities for the PWDs in a non-discriminatory manner, enabling them to access the premises and obtain the services therein on equal grounds.  We understand that the LML is now actively following up the recommendations and views on the eight shopping centres and car parks previously surveyed by the EOC, and the LML has started the improvement works for the barrier-free access and facilities in the eight shopping centres and car parks concerned.  According to the LML, the company has informed the EOC of the progress of the improvement works concerned, and will maintain contact with the EOC in this respect.  Also, according to the LML, the company has informed the EOC of its direction and policy on improvement and provision of barrier-free access and facilities in future, and has taken the initiative to invite the EOC to assist in training its staff members, to improve their understanding and implementation on the DDO.

     We understand that the EOC will continue to maintain contact with the LML and keep a close watch on the enhancement for barrier-free facilities in the commercial properties of The Link REIT so that those facilities can meet the users' needs.

     Indeed, it has all along been the policy objective of the Government to provide a barrier-free environment for the PWDs and those in need with a view to enabling them to live independently and integrate into the community.  To this end, the LWB will continue to promote, through various channels, the importance of a barrier-free environment to the community at large.

     As most of the commercial facilities under The Link REIT are located in public rental housing (PRH) estates, PRH tenants do predominantly use such facilities.  In this connection, the Housing Department (HD) will continue to convey tenants' views on The Link REITíŽs facilities, including their aspirations on the provision and use of barrier-free access and facilities, to the LML through regular working meetings.  The HD will also continue to encourage and urge the LML to fulfil its corporate social responsibilities to provide barrier-free access in the commercial facilities of The Link REIT for the PWDs and those in need, thus facilitating the use of the facilities by these people in a barrier-free manner.

     I would like to reiterate that The Link REIT being a private organisation, is entirely independent of the Government and the HA.  The Government and the HA do not involve in its day-to-day operation and management.  As such, the Administration only obtained the above information on the improvement works for The Link REIT's properties from the LML in response to the Hon Lau's question.  The Administration does not keep such information.

Ends/Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Issued at HKT 14:23

NNNN

Print this page