Housing chief won't serve under Leung
Joyce Ng and Tony Cheung
The housing minister, Eva Cheng, does not want to stay in government after the end of her term in June.
Cheng said yesterday she had discussed it with her family and respected their wishes. She is the second top official to express an intention to leave, after the chief secretary, Stephen Lam Sui-lung.
Her decision comes after persistent talk of tension between her and Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who is tipped to be the next chief secretary. Cheng did not say if the chief executive-elect, Leung Chun-ying, had offered to retain her.
'Everyone has different duties and positions in different times,' Cheng said, quoting a line from a classic Chinese poem: 'Cloud is in the blue sky, water is in the bottle. It's just like water, sometimes it's in the sky, sometimes it's in a bottle. We can think about what is the right thing to do at different times.'
Cheng had indicated as early as October last year that she might quit.
Reports have circulated widely among officials that Cheng clashed with Lam over their bureaus' different priorities, with Cheng focusing on meeting the construction target for public housing and Lam allocating land for different uses.
It has also been said that Lam disagreed with Cheng's housing policy, especially the rent-to-buy programme My Home Purchase Plan.
But Lee Wing-tat, chairman of the Legislative Council's housing panel, said the blame for the failure of housing policy should be on Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
'It was Tsang who decided to do the minimum in subsidised housing and not to interfere in the private market. Cheng could only follow the leader's direction,' Lee said.
Cheng joined the civil service in 1983 after graduating from the University of Hong Kong. Before taking up her current political post, she had served as commissioner for tourism and permanent secretary for economic development.
Yesterday, Cheng also dismissed a call by property developers for the removal of two important but disputed components from a bill to regulate the sale of new homes.
Cheng said: 'The public have expectations that the legislative work will be completed this year. We have dealt with [the developers'] views before.' Developers should also 'carefully think about society's reaction' if they were to launch a judicial challenge, she said.