23 April 2019
CY Leung (inset) is tageting sports grounds in the guise of providing land for public housing. Photos: HKEJ, Facebook/Jockey Club Kitchee Centre
CY Leung (inset) is tageting sports grounds in the guise of providing land for public housing. Photos: HKEJ, Facebook/Jockey Club Kitchee Centre

Dirty is how CY plays the housing game

First Wang Chau and now this.

Leung Chun-ying is picking off public playgrounds and sports facilities purportedly to give way to public housing.

The latest target is Kitchee Academy, a football club in Sha Tin open for scarcely a year.

Leung wants Kitchee to move to a new location, so he can build 1,000 public housing units on its 15,000-square-meter site.

Meanwhile, the government will allow the club to take out a short-term lease while waiting for home construction to start.

Already, Leung is under fire for targeting recreation and sports — two pillars of community well-being — under the guise of releasing land for development.

The problem is that land is not the problem.

It is government policy that allows unimpeded flow of mainland money and immigrants into Hong Kong, exacerbating a shortage of housing supply and putting home prices beyond the reach of Hongkongers.

But this is precisely why Leung is seduced by the idea of doing everything in the book to make him look good — if not inevitable — to his bosses in Beijing for another term as chief executive.

Leung is feeding mainland expectations that he will always move to accommodate China-friendly policies.

What of his hapless victims then? They’re on their own.

After all, didn’t he say that sports and religion contribute nothing to the economy?

Before Monday’s U-turn, the government had committed to support Kitchee from the outset. (The project was launched in 2011 during the administration of Donald Tsang.)

Far from an exclusive training school for rich people, Kitchee relies on funding from the Hong Kong Jockey Club and the Home Affairs Department.

Kitchee president Ken Ng was rightly aghast at Leung’s plan.

What a waste a new structure will now have to be demolished. And who will spend for the relocation and for the new building?

Kitchee is not an isolated case.

A small public playground in North Point is also in Leung’s crosshairs. It is undergoing a public consultation over plans to rezone it for residential use.

Local residents are vigorously opposed to the idea, saying the playground provides natural ventilation among the high-rises, lessening the so-called “hot island” effect.

They say it also offers a venue for a useful and constructive pastime and promotes community relations.

But that is not how Leung sees it and he will not do anything as long as it does not serve his political purposes.

Which is why Wang Chau remains a cautionary tale in how not to take Leung at his word.

In the past few weeks, we learned how the government colluded with rural leaders to slash the Wang Chau public housing project to 4,000 units from 17,000.

We saw how the government ended up deciding to build it on a greenfield site, which will require uprooting hundreds of villagers, rather than on an area occupied by powerful vested interests such as New World Development, a keen Leung supporter.

This is only the beginning. Leung has more up his sleeve.      

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EJ Insight writer

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