A CHINESE official yesterday attempted to play down the controversy caused by a colleague's claim that the release of too much land into the Hong Kong property market might cause a collapse. Chen Rongchun, leader of the Sino-British Land Commission, said the ''astonishing 300 hectares'' referred to by the mainland's top Hong Kong affairs official, Lu Ping, would not be released without the approval of land body. The 300 hectares include land from the property price curbing package announced in May, sites along the airport railway, property released under the military land deal, and reserve land. United Democrat legislator Dr Huang Chen-ya had asked Mr Lu to clarify whether his remarks meant China intended to block the granting of land - a move which would undermine government efforts to combat spiralling property prices. Dr Huang suggested China was protecting property developers' and speculators' interests rather than those of the public. Another Chinese official, vice-director of Xinhua (the New China News Agency), Zheng Guoxiong, said China would consider the need for social development and people's livelihood in its decision on whether to release land for development. China would continue this attitude in future deliberations of the commission. It was evident from experience that China was willing to endorse an amount exceeding the 50-hectare limit in the land disposal programme, he said. Asked whether it would harm property developers' interests if too much land were released, Mr Zheng said it was a complicated matter and did not just relate to land supply. One should look at the matter in a long-term perspective and should keep a balance, he said.