'Ordinary citizen' Tang defends his attack on URA

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 January, 2012, 12:00am
 

Chief executive hopeful and former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen yesterday tried to defend his attack on the Urban Renewal Authority, claiming he was only speaking as an 'ordinary citizen' and it was 'weird' to see such a strong reaction.

Tang attacked the Urban Renewal Authority on Thursday for selling 'pricey and fanciful' flats in disregard of the needs of grass-roots people. URA head Barry Cheung Chun-yuen is an ally of Tang's rival for the top job, Leung Chun-ying.

But his criticism backfired and Tang was under fire because as financial secretary from 2003 to 2007, he approved these expensive projects.

Tang then tried to fight a rearguard action, saying he approved the projects on the basis of cost, not pricing. His claim only drew further criticism from academics, media and lawmakers.

When tackled again yesterday, Tang said: 'I am now only an ordinary citizen so I find it weird for the authority to have such strong reaction [to my remarks]. But I was happy to see such strong reactions because it means the issue can be brought out for public discussion.'

He had proposed to carry out a 'fundamental review' on the role of URA, such as clipping its power by limiting its role to acquiring old buildings. Plots of land under the URA would be transferred back to government for redevelopment.

An authority spokesman said Tang's remarks were unfair. Cheung, who has taken leave as URA chairman to campaign for Leung, also hit back, saying Tang never criticised the authority or took up these issues when he was in government.

Tang yesterday refused to respond to Cheung's remarks but said he would not side-step his share of responsibility.

Tang is widely believed to be favoured by business and Beijing and is expected to win the chief executive contest. But lagging in popularity ratings, Tang recently has tried to play down his ties with big business and speak on behalf of ordinary people from time to time.

The latest poll found the popularity gap between Tang and Leung had narrowed to 6.5 percentage points, compared to 12.9 percentage points a month ago. But the Baptist University poll was held between last Monday and Thursday - before Tang's remarks on the authority.

It found Leung had a support rate of 27.8 per cent, down from 30.1 per cent. Tang gained 4.1 percentage points to 21.3 per cent. Albert Ho Chun-yan, the Democratic Party chairman, secured only 2.6 per cent, an increase of 0.7 percentage points.

Despite the stronger support for Leung, 72 per cent of interviewees said they believed Tang would eventually be selected by the 1,200-member Election Committee to be the next chief executive. Only 8.4 per cent believed Leung would be selected.

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