Lam says she's a scapegoat for unpopular property developers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 April, 2010, 12:00am

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says people have been taking their unhappiness with developers out on her.

'Unfortunately, Hongkongers have a certain perception of property developers today, and they have projected that perception on to an official,' the secretary for development said in an RTHK interview.

She was responding to criticism of her insistence on pushing through a change to compulsory-land-sale rules and her decision to preserve post-war tenements in Wing Lee Street. 'I feel helpless. But I believe I have worked for people's interest and they will eventually understand.'

Lam had proposed lowering the approval threshold for the compulsory sale of a property to 80 per cent of the units from 90 per cent to speed up the redevelopment of dilapidated buildings.

The Legislative Council passed the amendment last month despite strong opposition from some owners and lawmakers, who feared that the change would reduce owners' bargaining power with developers.

The day before the Legco vote, Lam announced that all 12 tenement buildings on Wing Lee Street in Sheung Wan would be preserved, which triggered speculation that the conservation decision had been made purely for political reasons. Lam and the Urban Renewal Authority issued public denials.

'I feel no qualms for what I did,' Lam said in the RTHK interview. 'The most important thing is I work for the best interests of Hong Kong.'

She said the Lands Tribunal would ensure that the price offered by developers to flat owners in a compulsory sale was reasonable.

'I don't want to be seen as a 'good fighter' who can push through every policy,' Lam said.

'People say I'm 'pig-headed' and acting arbitrarily,' she complained, saying people who knew her realised she was not like that at all.

'In fact, I am willing to compromise in order to get the job done and get it done well,' she said.

Many of the controversies plaguing the minister involve areas administered by other bureaus: converting industrial buildings into columbariums involves the Food and Health Bureau; revitalising industrial buildings for creative uses involves the Home Affairs Bureau; and the supply of land and housing involves the Transport and Housing Bureau.

Lam said she hoped her staff would not be given extra work.

'Every bureau has limited resources. I can't ask my colleagues to work endlessly,' she said. 'I also value my family. I hope my colleagues can strike a good balance between work and family.'