image

Leung Chun-ying

‘Nothing wrong’ with his government, CY Leung says, as rift emerges at the top

In bid to present picture of government unity, chief executive will chair press conference over Wang Chau housing controversy on Wednesday with Financial Secretary John Tsang

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2016, 10:43am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 5:58pm

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying yesterday insisted there was “nothing wrong” with his leadership amid indications of a rift at the top after two of his key ministers publicly distanced themselves from a controversial development plan he led.

Leung was on the defensive as he faced the media ahead of his weekly cabinet meeting and promised a detailed explanation in a major news conference today. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah – a potential rival if Leung seeks re-election next year – will sit by his boss’ side to explain their roles in the housing project.

“Nothing is wrong ... The whole government team has over the past four years been united,” he replied when asked what was wrong with his administration after both Tsang and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said they were not involved in the controversial scaling down of the Wang Chau public housing project in Yuen Long.

Housing controversy exposes rift between Hong Kong’s leader and finance minister

At today’s news conference, Leung is expected to justify the decision to prioritise the construction of 4,000 flats by displacing three villages instead of developing a larger brownfield site – a ruined agricultural plot – in Wang Chau, which is controlled by rural leaders and would yield 13,000 more flats, as originally planned. Leung has denied bowing to pressure from rural forces to downsize the project, saying this is only the first phase.

After a media report forced Leung to admit he chaired a task force on Wang Chau in 2013, a month before officials were said to have “soft lobbied” rural leaders for support, he brought Tsang into the controversy on Monday, saying it was the financial secretary’s Steering Committee on Land Supply that followed up detailed issues regarding the project.

Tough questions for all those involved in Hong Kong’s Wang Chau housing saga

Tsang said his own committee was not involved in the decision to develop Wang Chau in phases.

Leung would not respond to questions yesterday on whether he had made the call to split the project, only saying he would explain at the news conference.

Tsang’s office did not respond to the Post’s inquiries on Tuesday.

The chief secretary, who also clarified on Monday she was not a part of either Leung’s or Tsang’s panels, said yesterday she noted the chief executive’s ­remarks that the government had made concerted efforts to address the city’s housing problems.

Meanwhile, Leung added he would set up a consultation platform to involve stakeholders, ­including lawmaker-elect Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, to complete the project as soon as possible.

Hong Kong lawmakers-elect urge chief executive to come clean on Wang Chau development plan

But Chu, who brought the Wang Chau issue to the forefront after his election win, said he would not join the platform.

“A platform would only amount to another round of soft lobbying,” he said. “What Leung should do is to disclose all information about the project and let the legislature do the job.”

Chu was joined by 12 other pro-democracy lawmakers yesterday in a call for officials to come clean on the whole story.

Chu also said he would table a motion to invoke Legco’s special powers to investigate the case, but it would need at least half of ­lawmakers’ support from both the functional and geographical constituencies.

With pan-democrats and localists occupying 11 trade-based seats in the new Legco, Chu would need the backing of seven pro-establishment members.

Hong Kong lawmaker-elect Eddie Chu calls for radical rethink of way Heung Yee Kuk is chosen

The Liberal Party’s four lawmakers have yet to discuss the matter, while pro-establishment heavyweight Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said an explanation to Legco was due first, failing which she would not rule out supporting a special Legco inquiry.

Meanwhile, Heung Yee Kuk chairman Kenneth Lau Ip-keung yesterday said “soft lobbying” was not a big problem.

Additional reporting by Tony Cheung and Ng Kang Chung