'Build homes in Hong Kong's country parks to help the young', say tycoons
While young people remain in pro-democracy protest camps on the streets of Hong Kong, several prominent businessmen say the solution to their grievances is to build affordable housing in country parks.
If people had greater prospects of owning a home, the city could become more like the mainland - "where young people are very happy and their lives are getting better", a business summit heard yesterday.
Land pricing must be reformed to make property affordable for young people, said Vincent Lo Hong-sui, chairman of Shui On Land, a Hong Kong-listed property developer. "We have to give hope to young people that they will be able to have a decent place. Otherwise, why do they want to stay here?"
Part of Hong Kong's country parks should be released to develop affordable housing, Lo said at the annual business summit of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce.
"If you have no house, it is no use having nice country parks. Land supply is the biggest issue. If we have more land supply, property prices won't rise the way they have done.
"Singapore has visionary leaders. We should learn from Singapore in providing public housing. The problem facing Hong Kong is high property costs. I'm a beneficiary of that," Lo added jokingly.
Allan Zeman, chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Group, said about 3-5 per cent - "a small fraction" - of country parks should be converted to affordable housing.
Hong Kong had room to release more land for housing, since it uses 17 per cent of its developable land for housing - less than Singapore's proportion of 34 per cent, said Dr Victor Fung Kwok-king, chairman of the Fung Group, a leading Hong Kong supply chain and trading conglomerate.
Both Zeman and Lo urged the protesters to withdraw from the streets in order to respect the rule of law.
"Young people have made their feelings known. We have to see how we can help young people. Disobeying the law, where I come from, it doesn't work," said Zeman, who is originally from Canada.
Zeman urged pan-democrat lawmakers to allow passage of an electoral reform package that complies with the strict framework laid down by Beijing, because it was important for Hong Kong to have some form of universal suffrage in 2017.
"It's important we don't miss 2017," the entertainment entrepreneur said. "Young people [in Hong Kong] don't see hope for their future. In China, there is an economic miracle. The young people are very happy and their lives are getting better.
After 2017, the electoral system should be reformed to allow a broader range of chief executive candidates in elections, Zeman suggested.
* A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Allan Zeman said 20 per cent of country park land should be developed. The figure has been amended to 3-5 per cent.