The backgrounds of the two candidates vying for the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape functional constituency seat in the Legislative Council by-election may prompt some people to view it as a contest between an expert and a layman, but the reality is quite different.
Conversations with the two contenders — Tony Tse Wai-chuen from the pro-establishment camp, and Paul Zimmerman who is backed by pan-democrats — reveal that both of them have strong views and concerns over land development issues.
Tse, who was appointed by Beijing as a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in January, told the Hong Kong Economic Journal that he is worried that Hong Kong’s progress is getting stalled due to battles of political ideologies.
People should adopt a professional approach and try to find solutions to key issues rather than tangle over divided ideologies, which he said was leading the society nowhere.
Tse, a registered professional surveyor and a former lawmaker of the functional constituency, lost lost to Edward Yiu Chung-yim in the Legco election in September 2016. He is running for the seat again after Yiu, who was disqualified by the High Court last year for improper oath-taking, decided to switch his constituency and become the pan-democratic candidate for the Kowloon West seat.
Compared to Tse’s professional expertise that matches the needs of the constituency, his opponent Zimmerman, a member of the Southern District Council, can be seen as something of a layman.
Zimmerman, however, sees such perception as an advantage for him.
The Hongkonger of Dutch origin came to the city in 1984 and started a business before devoting himself to public affairs later. Zimmerman does not belong to either of the four professions in the functional constituency he wants to represent, but that makes him more outspoken than others.
Claiming that he has been participating in urban planning work for the past 15 years, and pointing out that his efforts had helped in the establishment of the current Harbourfront Commission, Zimmerman believes his strength is being able to bring people in various professional fields together to make changes happen.
Adopting the campaign slogan “Together we shape our future”, Zimmerman says he wants to bring about improvement in Hong Kong step by step.
Although he represents the pan-democratic camp in the by-election, Zimmerman said he does not support the filibustering strategy that had been often used by the camp in Legco.
Undue filibustering is not only harmful, it also doesn’t help in solving problems, he said.
Returning to Tse, the establishment candidate said that in terms of direction, he approves the initiative launched by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to re-establish a progressive housing ladder.
As such, Tse’s manifesto urges the government to re-launch the Sandwich Class Housing Scheme, adjust the public-private housing split to 70:30 from 60:40, and link the prices of homes sold by the government to salary income instead of market prices.
Asked about the Task Force on Land Supply’s intention to seek public consultation on whether to tap into the land occupied by the Fanling golf course in line with a government proposal, Tse said different feasible proposal should be contemplated.
The government should provide solid data to push forward the debate on land development, including on aspects such as developing brownfield sites, land reclamation, and developing country parks, he said.
Zimmerman, meanwhile, said land procurement must be done only in accordance with some principles. For instance, he would not object sharply to a proposal to change the boundaries of country parks, but he thinks the government must stick to four principles.
Decisions must be taken in keeping with the following criteria — insurmountable public needs; no other alternatives; taking as least land as possible; and offering as much compensation as possible — he said.
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