Housing may be Hongkongers' No 1 priority - but only four of the 27 lawmakers serving on a Legislative Council panel managed to make it to a discussion on the hottest issue in town.
The housing panel was due to discuss measures announced in the chief executive's policy address last week. But chairman Wong Kwok-hing called off the meeting after 15 minutes yesterday when the quorum of eight members had not been met, as required by its rules.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung and director of housing Duncan Pescod were among officials present to take questions in the scheduled 1½ hour debate. It was the first Legco meeting called off this year.
"I'm very disappointed and upset. Housing and land issues are of the greatest public concern. It is an area the chief executive has given top priority," Wong said. "They [the absent lawmakers] have wasted public money and they didn't deliver on their obligations."
A Legco spokeswoman said that at least 15 members had earlier indicated they would be able to attend the discussion, which began at 8.30am.
Democrat James To Kun-sun said a radio interview and traffic congestion delayed his arrival at the Legco complex in Admiralty. Labour's Lee Cheuk-yan said he had been discussing political reform with concern groups, but had planned to arrive later and raise questions about the problem of subdivided flats.
Wong has asked the panel's secretary to arrange another meeting as soon as possible.
Legco President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing called the postponement "regrettable" as officials had spent time preparing to brief the lawmakers.
"Once the time of the meeting is decided, I think it is the duty of every member to attend," he said.
Some 35 per cent of Hongkongers polled by the University of Hong Kong in December said housing was their top priority for the new year, more than any other topic.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced several housing measures in his policy address, including freeing up more land.