The government has been accused of trying to ram through land reclamation by burying a consultation which revealed serious public concern about this method of boosting land supply.
On January 16, the Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying, pledged in his policy address to press ahead with reclamation outside the Victoria Harbour.
On the same day, the findings of a consultation, which revealed public distaste for land reclamation, were quietly released on a government website.
Samantha Lee Mei-wah, of WWF Hong Kong, claimed the timing of the publication of the consultation's findings showed a disregard for public opinion.
Lee said: "The chief executive should have known the findings as he delivered his policy address. But the government is ramming through reclamation no matter what the public's views are.
"We need a thorough public debate about these findings before we sit down to talk about whether we need to reclaim, how much is needed and where."
The report, posted on the Civil Engineering and Development Department website, found redeveloping older urban sites to be the most popular of six options for boosting land supply, with an 83 per cent approval rating and less than 5 per cent opposition.
Pollsters found reclamation to be the most unpopular option, with just 33 per cent of respondents in a telephone survey supporting the method, against 46 per cent who were opposed.
Another survey, also conducted as part of the same consultation in March last year, found 48 per cent support for land reclamation and 38 per cent opposition, making it the second least popular option behind land resumption in that poll.
Other options included the use of former quarry sites or rock caverns, land rezoning and land resumption.
Lee noted that the report failed to draw any overall conclusions, perhaps to avoid bringing attention to land reclamation's poor showing in the polls.
Lee added that the engagement exercise was also supposed to help formulate criteria in selecting reclamation sites. But she could not find any concrete ideas on the issue in the report.
"[It] gives only vague and ambiguous principles the public can hardly understand," she said.
Lee also questioned whether an engagement exercise planned for the second stage, which proposed specific sites, should go ahead given the public feeling.
Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said the government would consult the public next month on five shortlisted reclamation sites.