When legislator Eddie Chu revealed death threats against him and his family, the saga over the Wang Chau housing project boiled over.
The media and the public think the government succumbed to pressure from powerful village clans and decided to scale back the plan to build 17,000 units.
It will now build just 4,000.
And despite repeated denials that it is in cahoots with gangs and vested interests, the government has failed to allay public concern over possible collusion.
Apple Daily is citing classified government documents that show Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying might have had a direct hand in the revised plan.
The documents also show that in July 2013, a Leung-led task force soft-lobbied village leaders, including Tsang Shu-wo, chairman of the Ping Shan Rural Committee.
The next month, Tsang and his fellow villagers attended a public forum in Tin Shui Wai in support of Leung. Clashes erupted with pro-democracy protesters.
Shortly afterwards, the Wang Chau housing project was officially scaled down, according to Apple Daily, suggesting a secret agreement had been reached between Leung and the clan leaders.
The report has further fuelled public suspicions about what went on behind the scenes.
If the report is true, several questions need answers.
First, since when did “soft-lobbying” and secret meetings replace public consultations?
Second, what did the government mean when it said the ultimate goal is still 17,000 public housing units and how does it plan to go about building them?
Documents from the Yuen Long District Council cited by Apple Daily never mentioned any second or third-phase development.
Lastly, why did the administration decide to build these flats on land that is already occupied by villagers, which would lead to their forced relocation, rather than on uninhabited brownfield sites? Is it because these sites are owned by powerful clan leaders?
The administration should come clean and release all details immediately or risk dealing another blow to its credibility.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 19
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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