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China denies construction breaches

The Chinese Embassy has denied claims a Chinese construction company breached development regulations when constructing the Samoa-China Friendship Park, contained in a warning letter from the Samoan Government.

The front page of the Samoa Observer’s Monday edition carried a story about a letter from the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure (M.W.T.I.) sent to the Shanghai Construction Group (“Chinese company warned over construction breaches”.)

The letter warned the company about a “clear breach” of its development consent conditions for the project including leaving waste scattered and uncovered wires around the site.

But the Ministry and the Chinese Embassy provided differing responses to the story on Monday. 

The M.W.T.I. said "remedial action" was taken by the Chinese construction company in response to routine inspections of construction sites. The Embassy described some of the accusations contained within the Ministry's letter, including that its construction practices had caused erosion and led to lake pollution as "absurd". 

“This [Friendship Park site is] a clear breach of the [...] conditions of your approved development consent,” a cletter signed by the Assistant Chief Executive Officer of the M.W.T.I., Limutau Kirisimasi Seumanutafam wrote in a letter in January this year that provided the basis for the story. 

“We advise that immediate mitigations measures are carried out to ensure compliance.”

On Monday a spokesman for the M.W.T.I. confirmed that the warning letter it sent was part of the Planning and Urban Management Agency's (P.U.M.A.) usual monitoring and enforcement for construction projects. 

"The Ministry wishes to confirm that remedial actions have already been undertaken by Shanghai Construction Group since the issuance of the mentioned letter early this year," the statement said.  

"Shanghai Construction Group responded within the timeframe specified by P.U.M.A. and the remedial actions undertaken satisfactorily addressed the concerns of P.U.M.A.. Therefore no further enforcement action under the P.U.M.A. Act was required."

But on Monday a spokeswoman for the Chinese Embassy at Apia hit back at the letter, which was dated 9 January.

“The site was at the stage of structure and earthwork construction,” the spokeswoman said. 

“It is inevitable that the site looked untidy, especially coupled with the rainy season impact.”

But the spokeswoman outright disputed a section of letter which said that construction activity had caused soil to wash into an adjacent lake. 


PUMA Letter regarding non-c... by James Robertson

The spokeswoman for the Embassy said photos of the project area, included in the original letter, showing rocks in the lake had not been caused, as alleged, by erosion caused by the construction project.

“It is unfair to identify the wood squares, bricks and other construction materials on site as wastes,” the spokeswoman said. 

“It is absurd to accuse [the Shanghai Construction Group (S.C.G.)] of 'causing pollution of a lake'." 

“Before the construction of the lagoon started, S.C.G. had sealed the connection between the lagoon and the open sea with temporary concrete walls, which ensured that the sand or muddy water from the construction site would not flow directly into the open sea.

The Embassy said that it will “give positive consideration based on [the] Samoan side’s [needs]” to additional requests for extensions to park plans made in a second letter written by M.W.T.I. C.E.O., Magele Hoe Viali, on 19 December 2019. 

Magele's letter included requests for new additions to the project such as better drainage systems and the construction of additional fales from local materials. 

“China-Samoa Friendship Park and Samoa Arts and Cultural Center are grants projects funded by Huizhou Municipal People’s Government of Guangdong Province,” the spokeswoman said. 

“The designing work [was] confirmed by both [Governments] in written form prior to groundbreaking.”

The M.W.T.I. said on Monday that some of the additional work requested by the Ministry from the Huizhou Municipality "was to ensure the effective functioning and usage of the Friendship Park when completed". 

"Some of these additional works have already been completed. We continue to work in close collaboration with our donor partner and Shanghai Construction Group, to ensure the successful completion of the Friendship Park project," the Ministry's statement said. 

The Shanghai Construction Group is listed by the American credit ratings firm Moody’s as “100 per cent owned by the Shanghai Government” and has the expectation of being bailed out by the Chinese Government in times of stress.

The M.W.T.I. letters were published in full last Friday by the  Epoch Times newspaper.

The Embassy’s response did not dispute their authenticity but criticised the American-based newspaper, which is affiliated with the Falun Gong religious group and outspokenly critical of the Chinese Government. 

“The news source, Epoch Times, is a newspaper run by [an] illegal cult organization, which is flooded with fake news and one-sided stories,” the spokeswoman said. 

The newspaper existed to create frictions between China and other countries, the spokeswoman said.

The M.W.T.I. statement said that the Samoa Observer had not contacted its office for comment ahead of the publication of its story "as mentioned in their article".

The Samoa Observer contacted the Government's Press Secretariat twice before publication of the story and attached a full copy of the letters on which the story was based; the Shanghai Construction Group; and the Embassy's spokeswoman the day prior to the story’s publication.

The Park is part of the Apia Waterfront Development Project, which covers the area behind the FMFMII Government Building at Eleele Fou.

In May the Chinese Embassy in Samoa announced the projects were both subject to delays because of the coronavirus and border closures preventing Chinese engineers from entering the country.

Reports of vandalism incidents at the park were revealed last week.

By August this year the project was listed as 75 per cent complete despite the project being hit by construction delays due to border restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus.

Comments from the Chinese Embassy 

The news source, Epoch Times, is a newspaper run by illegal cult organization, which is flooded with fake news and one-sided stories out of context, with ill intentions of attacking the Chinese government, undermining the “Belt and Road Initiative” , and provoking the friendship between China and the other countries including Samoa. 

The letter cited in the article was dated 9 January 2020, during which the site was at the stage of structure and earthwork construction. It is inevitable that the site looked untidy, especially coupled with the rainy season impact, but it is unfair to identify the wood squares, bricks and other construction materials on site as wastes. Actually, Samoa Ministry of Works, Transport Infrastructure was conducting monthly regular inspection and keeps close communication with the contractor, Shanghai Construction Group (SCG) . The facts have also proven that it is absurd to accuse SCG of “causing pollution of a lake”. 

Before the construction of the lagoon started, SCG had sealed the connection between the lagoon and the open sea with temporary concrete walls, which ensured that the sand or muddy water from the construction site would not flow directly into the open sea during the construction period. China-Samoa Friendship Park and Samoa Arts and Cultural Center are grants projects funded by Huizhou Municipal People’s Government of Guangdong Province. 

The designing work were confirmed by both Government in written form prior to groundbreaking. Huizhou Municipal People’s Government has already received the additional requests of the projects, and will give positive consideration based on Samoan side’s needs. If any media is interested in paying a visit to the Park Construction site, the Embassy would like to offer assistance.

Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure

We wish to respond to an article published by the Samoa Observer on 20th September 2020, with the headline “Chinese company warned over construction breaches”. 

The letter dated 09 January 2020 to Shanghai Construction Group is a standard procedure letter of the Planning and Urban Management Agency (P.U.M.A.), a division of the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure (MWTI). Such a letters is part of PUMA’s usual compliance monitoring and enforcement works for development consents issued to developers, which in this case is Shanghai Construction Group. 

The Ministry wishes to confirm that remedial actions have already been undertaken by Shanghai Construction Group since the issuance of the mentioned letter early this year. Shanghai Construction Group responded within the timeframe specified by PUMA and the remedial actions undertaken satisfactorily addressed the concerns of P.U.M.A. Therefore no further enforcement action under the PUM (sic) Act was required. 

Furthermore, the additional works requested by the Ministry from the Huizhou Municipality was to ensure the effective functioning and usage of the Friendship Park when completed. Some of these additional works have already been completed. We continue to work in close collaboration with our donor partner and Shanghai Construction Group, to ensure the successful completion of the Friendship Park project. 

We also wish to note that our office never received a request for comments from Samoa Observer as mentioned in their article.

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