'Callous' career man Victor So takes helm of Urban Renewal Authority
Victor So seen as capable by former colleagues, but lawmaker says he left 'very bad' impression
A former Link Reit chief - a man a lawmaker has described as "callous and conservative" in their past dealings over housing - has been appointed to head the Urban Renewal Authority.
Victor So Hing-who, 66, a supporter of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, is to replace Barry Cheung Chun-yuen as authority chairman.
Cheung resigned from all his public posts when police began investigating his failed Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange (HKMEx) last month.
"So is a veteran in urban renewal and public and private sector developments," Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said yesterday.
"His extensive experience and stellar track record in the field will inspire confidence in the continued success of the URA."
So, a qualified surveyor, starts a three-year term on June 15. In the past 40 years, he has held key posts such as property director of the MTR Corporation, chief executive of the Housing Society and also of the Link Real Estate Investment Trust. He was also executive director of Sun Hung Kai Properties and Kerry Properties.
So said: "Since early 2011, I have retired from all my engagements and positions with the private sector and have concentrated on public and voluntary work." He said he would work closely with the authority "in a 'people-first, district-based and public-participatory' approach".
So's most controversial post was with The Link Reit, a company condemned by residents as a "bloodsucker" for raising the rents of public housing estate malls since it acquired them from the Housing Authority in 2005. He quit the company in 2007.
Legislator James To Kun-sun, who serves on the URA board, said he had a "very bad" impression of So when he led the Housing Society. "He was stubborn, conservative and callous when it came to residents. He would leave from the back door when people petitioned at his office."
Lee Wing-tat, a Housing Authority member with So in the 1990s, said So was "competent" but should step aside from URA meetings about issues involving the developers he worked for.
Lau Kwok-yu, who also worked with So in the Housing Authority, said he was capable and his experience relevant.
Meanwhile, a surprise bid by Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun to launch an inquiry into the HKMEx saga goes to the vote before the Legislative Council's House Committee today.
With the backing of pan-democrats and pro-establishment lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun, Tien's suggestion - to use Legco's power and privileges ordinance - could be one vote away from majority support. Tien has suggested an inquiry would help clear doubt over whether the Securities and Futures Commission offered preferential treatment to the HKMEx in the case.