The former projects director of MTR Corporation who quit recently as a result of a construction scandal has offered to resign as the chief of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers amid growing pressure, the Post has learned.
Two weeks after he was forced to leave the rail company immediately by the government following the construction scandal at the Sha Tin-Central rail project, Philco Wong Nai-keung wrote to the institution’s 40-strong council on Tuesday evening stating that he wanted to step down as president of the professional body.
However, he said he would leave the ultimate decision to the council, which will hold a meeting soon to decide on the matter. Wong was elected as president only in May.
“After careful consideration, I have discussed with my fellow officers at a meeting on August 18, 2018 that I am ready to tender my resignation as president of the HKIE in order to avoid creating any potential impact on the HKIE arising from my involvement in the aforementioned events and any discord among members with differing views,” Wong wrote in an email obtained by the Post. “After a thorough discussion, we agreed that we should let the council handle the issue and allow the members to express their views.”
Wong has been under pressure to step down as the head of the professional body since relinquishing his MTR Corp job on August 7. A group of more than 100 engineers had collectively signed a petition to urge him to put “the reputation of the institution above personal interests” and step down as president because the unfolding scandal put the public perception of the engineering profession in jeopardy.
The fall from grace of Hong Kong’s MTR: a timeline of events in the Sha Tin-Central rail link scandal
The outcry came a day after the institution’s four officers – the former president Thomas Chan, senior vice-president Ringo Yu and vice-presidents Yuen Pak-leung and Edwin Chung – expressed their support for Wong to stay as leader on August 9.
Wong revealed in the email that the council will hold a special meeting to discuss his proposed resignation, but he will be out of Hong Kong from Wednesday for “pre-planned leave.”
“The council needs to accept the resignation proposal as soon as possible,” said engineer Albert Lai Kwong-tak, who was among the some 100 petitioners. “The longer he stays as president, the more damage will be done to the institution’s reputation.”
He warned that if the council made a collective decision to keep Wong as president, “the council members’ reputation will be called into question”.
The Post has contacted Wong and the institution for comment.
Wong and three other general managers of the Sha Tin-Central rail link resigned on August 7 when the government demanded MTR Corp remove the senior management team of the HK$97.1 billion (US$1.2 billion) project. The government discovered the team gave contradictory evidence about faulty work on the rail link’s platform at the expanded Hung Hom Station and that it lost faith in the management team.
The shake-up also saw MTR Corp CEO Lincoln Leong Kwok-kuen retired prematurely. The corporation’s chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang, whose three-year contract is due to expire at the end of this year, also promised to stay until the new CEO is in place.
Leaked photos show workers cutting steel bars at scandal-hit HK$97.1 billion Sha Tin-Central rail link in Hong Kong
The Sha Tin-Central rail link is now subject to a safety test over the Hung Hom platform after contractor Leighton Contractors (Asia) and MTR Corp failed to inform the Buildings Department about modified specifications of a diaphragm wall which supports the platform.
The safety test put the opening of the project, which has already faced delays and cost overruns, to further uncertainty. The section connecting Tai Wai and Tuen Mun through the West Rail line and called the Tuen Ma line – was originally scheduled for opening in the middle of next year while the cross-harbour section between Hung Hom and Admiralty is due in 2021.