Hong Kong chief executive’s ‘tears’ only distracted attention from urgently needed land reform, Eddie Chu claims

Lawmaker-elect calls for swift action in the wake of awkward appearance from the city’s top officials on the controversial Wang Chau housing project.

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 11:19am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 5:12pm

Lawmaker-elect Eddie Chu Hoi-dick has accused Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying of attempting to divert attention from much-needed land development reforms during yesterday’s press conference on a scandal-ridden Wang Chau housing project.

Chu, who helped expose the Wang Chau controversy, said the top official’s “tears” and theatrics were only tactics aimed at distracting public attention from the real issues at stake.

“Don’t allow these press conference tears, which weren’t actually shed, and these attacks by government officials on one another, to divert everybody’s attention from the key issues,” he said.

Speaking on a radio programme on Thursday, Chu said the government should seize the opportunity to reform town planning and consultation processes.

“Town planning should be democratic, open and free from [influence]… But the key problem is the government doesn’t want to change their method of ‘soft lobbying’ those with power – this type of internal planning.”

During Wednesday’s awkward hour-long press conference, Leung and his top officials explained their roles when deciding to build 17,000 public housing flats in phases, deferring the bulk of the flats in Yuen Long’s Wang Chau until later.

The city’s top officials denied bowing to pressure from rural leaders with vested interests in the project.

Leung’s government has been accused of colluding with, or folding to pressure from village strongmen when deciding to push ahead with the first phase – building an initial 4,000 flats at a nearby green-belt site, which would result in the displacement of three non-indigenous villages.

Recent media reports forced Leung to confirm that he had chaired a task force on Wang Chau in 2013, a month before officials started “soft lobbying” rural leaders for support.

Chu said rural and district representatives, and the government, had exploited villagers from the three communities.

Laboured explanations fail to satisfy sceptical critics of Hong Kong Wang Chau housing project

“The weak don’t have the power to say anything,” he said.

“I think it should be the other way round. You should start with lobbying the powerless, not with the powerful.”

Many villagers, Chu said, were not aware of Town Planning Board notices and would not know what to make of planning documents.

“Many only find out their land is to be resumed when Lands Department officials storm into their village to register their details,” he said.

Chu vowed to continue fighting for villagers’ justice in the legislature and would even reach out to pro-establishment parties, such as the Liberal Party and New People’s Party, to seek common ground.

He issued a reminder to housing secretary Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung to provide him with a copy of the feasibility report for Wang Chau, as agreed.

“This is very important for the public’s right to know,” he said

Meanwhile, Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, defended the government’s “soft lobbying” tactics, believing it was necessary for the government to gauge the views of stakeholders early.

DAB lawmaker admits he suggested the government scale down controversial Yuen Long public housing project

She dismissed calls from Chu to apologise on behalf of her fellow party member, Leung Che-cheung, who was a Yuen Long District Councillor at the time the decisions on Wang Chau were made.

Chu said he, along with rural strongman Tsang Shu-wo, “betrayed villagers” by suggesting the government scale down the public housing project.

Lee said this was unfair to Leung Che-cheung as he was only representing the concerns of residents in the district.