Action on housing, education and labour rights can make Hongkongers happier: lawmaker Vincent Cheng
- One of the city’s newest lawmakers, 39-year-old says he hopes for ‘year of pragmatism’ in 2019
Ambitious targets for transitional housing and cutting pressure on schoolchildren should be on the Hong Kong government’s to-do list for 2019, one of the city’s newest legislators has said.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Vincent Cheng Wing-shun said improvements in labour rights, housing and education were crucial to improving Hongkongers’ sentiment and their impression of legislators and top officials.
“I hope 2019 can be a year of pragmatism ... as people are expecting the chief executive, the government and lawmakers to solve the city’s problems one by one,” the 39-year-old said.
Cheng, a member of the city’s largest pro-Beijing party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, won his Kowloon West seat at a by-election in March. He beat pan-democrat Edward Yiu Chung-yim, becoming the first pro-establishment candidate to win a Legislative Council by-election in a geographical constituency.
On housing, he has been particularly concerned about improving conditions for families in subdivided flats.
“I hope that there can be rent subsidies, rent controls and a standardised rent agreement to protect these families, because more than 200,000 people live in subdivided flats now,” said the lawmaker, who is also a district councillor in Sham Shui Po, one of Hong Kong’s poorest communities.
In recent years, the government has been trying to tackle housing problems by building more subsidised homes, and encouraging social welfare groups to provide transitional housing – cheap rental units offered by homeowners, developers or landlords of vacant industrial buildings.
But Cheng argued that those initiatives would be ineffective without an ambitious official target.
“I propose 10,000 transitional housing units in three years ... because there are now many transitional housing schemes, but these will only provide about 900 units,” he said.
On education, Cheng, a father of three boys in primary school, pledged to lobby officials to make education less stressful, especially for children and parents.
“The Education Bureau should try to lessen pressure caused by exams and homework, because a lot of children are doing their homework until 11pm after a full day in school,” he said.
On labour issues, he said he wanted officials to do more to help builders, especially those from ethnic minorities.
“Many construction workers complain about not getting help or compensation after getting injured at work ... It’s particularly hard for those who are Nepali or Indian, because of the language barrier,” he added.
Reflecting on his historic victory in March, Cheng said Hongkongers were tired of political confrontations in Legco, and had higher expectations of politicians.
“There were a lot of conflicts and unhappiness in the last five to six years ... but let’s do more for the people’s livelihoods so that people can see things are changing, the government is doing more, and things are speeding up,” he said.