Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying made the decision to slash the Wang Chau public housing project to 14,000 units.
Leung told a press conference Wednesday that he made the final decision to scale back the plan from 17,000 units during a regular meeting in January 2014, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
He said the meeting was attended by Financial Secretary John Tsang, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen.
Leung said he agreed with the recommendations of the Housing Department to build only 4,000 flats in the initial stage and to defer the second and third phases so as not to bog down the entire project.
“I had to take charge as chief executive,” he said.
The government is being accused of bowing to a powerful business lobby, backed by landowners, village leaders and thugs.
Housing chief Anthony Cheung said there had been several meetings between officials and leaders of local councils in 2013 and 2014.
The latter objected to the project in the beginning before agreeing to a phased development.
An interdepartmental meeting in June 2013 set a schedule for the project, including 4,300 units to be completed by 2023-2024 and the remaining 12,700 units by 2026-2027, Leung said.
He said he decided the next year to build 4,000 units in the first phase based on his understanding of “potential difficulties” in the project.
He did not give a straight answer to whether the remaining units can be completed as scheduled, saying only a technical study is under way.
Leung denied the staggered development is meant to protect the interests of certain sectors.
Asked if he agrees with Leung, Tsang, who contradicted his boss’s story earlier this week, said “you always agree with your boss. No question about that”.
Leung denied any disagreement between him and his subordinates, adding in a sentimental tone that he appreciates the “relentless efforts by everyone” on project.
Several opposition lawmakers said they are not satisfied with Leung’s explanation and urged all officials involved to give more detailed information to a legislative panel.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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