Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has reportedly intervened in a private property development project in Discovery Bay, presenting a possible conflict of interest.
Leung directed the Planning Department last year to follow up on a plan by HKR International Ltd. (0480.HK) to enhance an existing property development in Discovery Bay, Apple Daily reported on Tuesday, citing government documents it has obtained.
HKR, which owns many real estate projects in East Lantau, proposed to the department two years ago that an area covered by Discovery Bay should be extended by half, but the plan was rejected due to height limits set by the government.
However, the documents showed the department held meetings with HKR in April and July to discuss the once-rejected development plan under Leung’s instructions.
In his 2014 policy address, Leung said the government will explore ways to further develop the eastern waters off Lantau Island and neighboring areas, with a view to developing an East Lantau Metropolis that will become a core business district in addition to Central and Kowloon East.
It is believed that HKR may gain tens of billions of Hong Kong dollars from the plan, which aims to add 1,000 residential units with a combined floor area of up to 980,000 square feet.
Leung’s instruction to the planning department regarding the HKR plan may involve a conflict of interest as he held shares in the Japanese franchise of DTZ, the real estate advisory empire he helped build, and HKR has been a long-time client of DTZ Japan, the newspaper said.
Democratic Party chief executive Lam Cheuk-ting, a former investigator of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, asked Leung to explain to the public his role in the HKR project in Discovery Bay and to disclose any other real estate projects in which he had intervened.
Lam said it was uncommon for a chief executive to get involved in a specific development project unless he keeps a good relationship with the developer.
He said Leung’s involvement placed unnecessary pressure on the planning department, which should be left alone in deliberating on property projects.
Both the Planning Department and the Chief Executive’s Office didn’t reply to Apple Daily’s requests for comments, nor did HKR, which only said it is a common practice to study the feasibility of land developments.
Leung on Tuesday said any change to the use and density of property development sites must first seek approval from the Town Planning Board.
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