Reclaiming land an unavoidable part of Hong Kong’s future, Carrie Lam says as she hardens stance
Chief executive reiterates support for potential solution to city’s land supply crisis, but says she is not ruling out other options
Hong Kong’s leader hardened her stance on land reclamation on Wednesday, calling it unavoidable in the long-term.
Speaking at a Legislative Council question-and-answer session, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor made the comments a day after hinting at five locations where reclamation might be possible.
Lam said land supply would be a key point of her policy address during an interview on Sunday marking her first year in office. Her stance prompted criticism she had pre-empted a public consultation.
On Wednesday, the chief executive denied she had already made up her mind on how to increase Hong Kong’s land supply.
“Let me clarify. I am not saying reclamation is the only way, but for Hong Kong’s long-term land supply to be adequate, reclamation seems to be unavoidable,” she said.
Lam later said reclamation must be “large scale” to satisfy the city’s need for land in housing development.
She added that other viable and short-term options included in ongoing public engagement exercise conducted by the Task Force on Land Supply “can also be done”.
A day earlier, Lam had insisted she had not prematurely waded into the debate on land supply and said her vocal support for reclamation amounted to a “candid” response to public concerns about the city’s land shortage.
Her stance was well-received by the pro-establishment camp on Wednesday, drawing support from Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king and Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung of Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong.
Lawmaker Chan Kin-por, who represents the insurance sector, also agreed with reclamation, but described Lam’s comments on the subject as “a delayed spring”.
“A task force member told me, ‘land is like flour, and houses are like bread’, and the process to turn flour to bread takes eight to 10 years,” Chan said.
“He thinks this bread-making machine is broken.”
Chan, who chairs the Legco Finance Committee, said the process involved feasibility studies, public consultation, seeking approval from the Town Planning Board and funding from the committee.
He asked Lam whether the government could “compress” the process.
“If we don’t listen to [public] opinion … I believe it would not be supported by the council,” Lam said, adding the Development Bureau would seek to speed up the construction process.
NeoDemocrats’ Gary Fan Kwok-wai, one of only two pan-democrats who had the chance to speak during the session, accused Lam of overriding the task force’s public engagement exercise.
According to Fan, a survey commissioned by Green Sense found 30 per cent of Hongkongers did not believe reclamation was a solution to Hong Kong’s land shortage.
Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, chairman of the task force, previously said Lam’s preference for reclamation would not affect the impartiality of the consultation.
“Just as you and I have different opinions on land supply, the chief executive is also entitled to her own opinion,” he said.
Additional reporting by Tony Cheung