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Wang Chau housing saga

CY Leung has knocked on doors for Wang Chau housing projects, senior Hong Kong official claims

Executive Council member Cheung Chi-kong defends city leader’s efforts on controversial development as calls continue for greater disclosure of plans

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 2016, 2:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 2016, 9:32pm

Hong Kong’s leader has personally “knocked on the doors” of different people to push ahead developments on deserted rural sites, an executive councillor has claimed while declining to offer details.

Cheung Chi-kong, who has also made it clear he would support Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in seeking a second term, made the remarks on Monday amid continuing accusations the government bowed to pressure from rural landlords to suspend a public housing plan at a Yuen Long brownfield site – a deserted or damaged agricultural and industrial area used for storage and car scraps.

“I can tell you that the chief executive has personally knocked on the doors of this and that person in order to push ahead all these [brownfield projects],” Cheung said during a Commercial Radio programme.

Pressed to offer details such as whom Leung had approached, the executive councillor replied: “Ask the chief executive himself.”

But he later released a statement saying he meant Leung had demanded different government departments actively look into how brownfield sites could be developed.

I can tell you that the chief executive has personally knocked on the doors of this and that person in order to push ahead
Cheung Chi-kong, on the Wang Chau housing saga

Cheung said politics was all about convincing different people with your proposals. He added the government needed to press ahead with developing brownfield sites because the city was running out of other suitable areas.

The Wang Chau controversy erupted after the government decided to set aside a plan to develop public housing on an environmentally damaged brownfield site and instead prioritised a green belt site nearby.

Officials have denied relenting to pressure from powerful rural leaders with vested interests in the brownfield site. But they have failed to explain why they deferred the brownfield site plan, which drew sharp objections from village elders.

Cheung said the public had exaggerated the seriousness of the “soft lobbying” government officials had done with rural leaders. He said this was a common practice in US and UK politics, as well as in the business sector.

“Soft lobbying is a necessary part of politics. When I used to be in the business sector, I did soft lobbying very often ... it is just an informal way to find out what other people think, to find out what can be negotiated,” Cheung said.

Last week the Chief Executive’s Office said Leung had chaired inter-departmental meetings almost every week since he assumed office in 2012 to take forward “high-level coordination work for 20 to 30 large-scale, medium to long-term land development projects”.

Asked to name the projects, the office had yet to respond.

Separately on Monday, lawmaker-elect Edward Yiu Chung-yim called on Leung to release more details about his efforts so that the public would know if he had conflicts of interests with the 20 to 30 projects he chaired.

“I will file questions to the government and I hope the government will respond,” Yiu said.

Civic Passion’s lawmaker-elect Cheng Chung-tai said the Wang Chau developments should be halted for now until the government was able to explain everything clearly to the public.