Lawmakers yesterday criticised a proposal by the Hong Kong government to sell 8,400 subsidised flats and turn some blocks into guesthouses for mainland tourists. They said the government should not be intervening in the property market. The Housing, Planning and Lands Bureau suggested selling 8,399 flats in the subsidised Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) to public tenants who want to possess their own flats. 'We will do it over a period of time and each time only with a small number of flats so the market will not be upset,' housing minister Michael Suen Ming-yeung told the Legislative Council's housing panel. There are 25,000 'vacant' HOS flats, though this figure includes some still under construction. Others are unsold, or have been sold back to the Housing Authority by the original buyers. The strongest opposition came from non-affiliated Breakfast Group member, Abraham Razack, who represents the real estate and construction constituency. 'This is an intervention,' Mr Razak said several times, adding: 'On the one hand, you talk about big market, small government, then you sell your flats to the market. This is self-defeating.' He was also upset by the bureau's suggestion of turning some of the HOS blocks into guesthouses for mainland tours. Howard Young, of the Liberal Party, also criticised the plan, saying it would be unfair to the hotel industry. Meanwhile, Shih Wing-ching, the chairman of the Centaline Property Agency, said the proposal was inconsistent with the government's decision to stabilise the market by controlling supply. He added: 'There are some 60,000 vacant flats in the secondary market. Why rush? Why can't the government leave the flats vacant until the economy improves?' A number of ways were suggested to dispose of the 25,000 vacant units, including selling two private-sector participation projects to New World Development, turning some blocks into government staff quarters, selling 1,216 units to the Housing Society, another housing body, for rental and leaving 2,100 flats for the rehousing of tenants from overcrowded public housing. Last November, Mr Suen unveiled a package of nine measures designed to stabilise the flagging property market, including a plan to refrain from selling HOS flats.