Housing Authority encourages debate

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 February, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 February, 1996, 12:00am

YOUR editorial 'Secret passion' (South China Morning Post, February 7) interpreted the absence of Democratic Party legislator Lee Wing-tat from public hearings of a Housing Authority ad hoc committee as indicative of the authority's 'passion for secrecy' and hinted it was attempting to 'inhibit debate'.

I feel obliged to correct such misconception and clear the good name of the Housing Authority.

First, it should be noted that the authority's Ad Hoc Committee on Private Domestic Property Ownership by Public Rental Housing Tenants spent 16 months debating the subject.

Members attach great importance to public consultation on what is a controversial subject with far-reaching implications.

The decision to hold a series of public hearings was made at a November meeting attended by Mr Lee.

Second, the present consultation process is open, thorough, wide-ranging and well-publicised. We have attended District Board, Mutual Aid Committee and Legco meetings to explain the ad hoc committee's recommendations and listen to various viewpoints. We also participated in public affairs programmes, gave media briefings and answered questions during phone-ins.

In addition, we have written to various interest groups inviting their views.

There are absolutely no attempts to inhibit debate. On the contrary, members of the committee are keen to hear more views to ensure that the final proposals put to the Housing Authority after the consultation are practical, fair and reasonable.

Third, the purpose of public hearings is to provide an additional channel for individuals and groups to express their views on the consultation document, and for the members of the ad hoc committee to explain the rationale behind the recommendations.

This process is completely transparent. Reporters and members of the public are welcome in the public gallery.

Fourth, there is absolutely no truth in any suggestion that Mr Lee has been sidelined because he holds different views.

On the contrary, we have continued to send him newspaper cuttings on the subject, summaries of views expressed at various meetings, and the gist of written representations and telephone calls received since the consultation document was published.

Finally, we have had lively debates with Mr Lee on the Legco Housing Panel, on radio programmes and in newspaper columns, and indeed with other organisations which may take an opposing stance.

We have no qualms about this. Indeed, we think it is good - and healthy - that we should carry on this debate in public to stimulate discussion and to present different points of view.

This is proof the Housing Authority is open-minded about opposing views and has no passion for secrecy at all.

FANNY LAW Deputy Director of Housing