17 February 2019
Leung Chun-ying delivered a double whammy on his housing policy and the West Kowloon Cultural District project that will saddle future administrations. Photos: HKEJ
Leung Chun-ying delivered a double whammy on his housing policy and the West Kowloon Cultural District project that will saddle future administrations. Photos: HKEJ

How CY shocked his potential successor with new initiatives

In his policy address on Wednesday, Leung Chun-ying painted his potential successor into a corner with two policy initiatives that will outlive his term in office and well beyond.

These relate to the housing policy and the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD), two projects that will saddle the incoming administration for years to come.

Blaming the land supply crunch on land use restrictions, Leung opened a Pandora’s Box by declaring that country parks and green belt areas are fair game in his plan to build more public housing.

Leung said the government will incorporate more land with high ecological value into country parks, increase the total area of ecological conservation sites and enhance their recreational and educational value

At the same time, the government will consider allocating a small proportion of land on the periphery of country parks with relatively low ecological and public enjoyment value for public housing and non-profit-making elderly homes.

Will this encroachment mean the end of our country parks system as we know it?

Leung seems to be not bothered by the prospect, choosing instead to leave the problem at the feet of his successor.

It is the same thing with WKCD which is turning into a property development project from the original plan of a cultural hub.   

Leung said the government has decided to provide WKCD with an “enhanced financial arrangement” by granting it government-owned development rights of the hotel, office and residential portion of the district.

The WKCD Authority may develop these facilities jointly with the private sector and share rental revenue from these facilities to sustain the operation of the district.

The new financial arrangement did not draw too much coverage; the public was concerned more about elderly subsidies.

But the arrangement no doubt completely changes the nature of the project from a purely government-funded facility to a commercial and residential property project involving the private sector.

These changes could lead to a situation in which the public will be left in the dark as to how the land is used such as any potential transfer of interest.

Controversial would be an understatement to describe them but are they politically advantageous?

Could Leung’s successor build on these policies and come to embrace them as his or her own?

We have yet to see how the candidates for chief executive will react to Leung’s latest bombshell but they will be thinking of its populist theme and trying to figure out how to avoid getting trapped.

As for Leung, his last policy address was an occasion to trumpet his own achievements.

“With my great affection and commitment for this place, I shall continue to join hands with all seven million Hong Kong people to make contributions to Hong Kong and our country,” he concluded.

Earlier, he touted his record, saying his 2012 election promises had been fulfilled.

Observers said Leung is not quite done yet. He might emerge as a key player in the national area as happened to Tung Chee-hwa after he stepped down in 2005.

At a press conference following the speech, he refused to comment on whether he will run again for chief executive at some point in the future.

But after surprising us with his decision not to seek a second term and with his policy address, Leung just might pull off yet another shocker.

Watch this space.   

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EJ Insight writer

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