A total of 28 opposition legislators have signed an open letter to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, asking him to explain in detail the government’s role in the controversial public housing project in Wang Chau in Yuen Long, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The move was led by newly elected legislator Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, who earlier claimed to have received death threats while fighting for the rights of villagers affected by the project.
It came following an Apple Daily report suggesting that the government yielded to pressure from powerful business interests in Wang Chau.
As a result, only 4,000 public homes instead of the originally proposed 17,000 units were built and many villagers were forced to relocate without being consulted beforehand.
Apple Daily reported on Saturday that an internal government document it obtained showed the government had set up a task force, chaired by CY Leung himself, for the development of Wang Chau and it carried out two rounds of “soft lobbying” with community leaders in July and September 2013.
According to the document, the Housing Authority indicated that the community leaders generally supported the first-phase development of the project, or building 4,000 public homes, but not the second and third phases that aimed to build 13,000 more units unless the government reviewed the re-provisioning policy for open storage areas.
Apple Daily also reported that the chairman of the Ping Shan Rural Committee, Tsang Shu-wo, who operates carparks in Wang Chau, openly expressed his support for Leung at a district forum in August 2013, implying there was an “exchange of interest” as the Wang Chau project has stopped at 4,000 units since then.
In response to media enquiries on the news report, the Chief Executive’s Office said in a press release Saturday that Leung has never discussed the matter with any individuals outside the government.
It expressed deep regret over allegations which it said were “totally fabricated and unfounded”.
The Information Services Department also issued two statements later that day, one of them saying that Leung did chair the task force but subsequent informal consultations on the project were only undertaken by officials from the Housing Authority.
The Chief Executive and the government will not let go of any opportunity to increase land supply, including using brownfield sites, for housing, the other statement said.
It also stressed that the government has remained steadfast in handling Wang Chau and other development projects, even though the interests of certain sectors, districts or individuals may be affected in the process.
The Chief Executive’s Office, the Transport and Housing Bureau, the Development Bureau and the Housing Authority did not respond to HKEJ enquiries about the issue.
Chu met with Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po and Secretary for Housing and Transport Anthony Cheung Bing-leung on Thursday to discuss the Wang Chau project.
Speaking at an RTHK forum on Sunday, Chu said Cheung told him there had never been any “soft lobbying” on the project.
While Leung insisted last week that the original plan to build 17,000 homes in Wan Chau remains on track, it is still unclear when it will be realized as the government has not announced any schedule to carry it out.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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