After five months of public engagement exercise, the Task Force on Land Supply eventually managed to submit its final report to the government before the end of 2018.
Intriguingly though, unlike in the case of other major policy initiatives put forward by authorities in recent years, the government didn’t arrange for the task force to hold a formal sit-down press conference on the release of the final report, on which the panel members had toiled for months.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t until shortly before the chairman and the vice-chairman of the task force –Stanley Wong Yuen-fai and Greg Wong Chak-yan, respectively — were scheduled to appear before the media on Monday that reporters were finally allowed to go through the 123-page report.
The two Wongs had to remain standing in front of microphones for over an hour as they took in questions from the media.
The task force is believed to have asked the government beforehand whether it would arrange for a formal press conference, only to be told that it wouldn’t happen.
Apparently, the reason given for the no-presser decision was this: the press conference room at the Central Government Offices is undergoing renovation, so it can’t be used right now.
In the meantime, it is also understood that even the Question and Answer session during Stanley Wong and Greg Wong’s meeting with the press on Monday may not have happened had it not been for certain members of the task force asking the development secretary, Michael Wong Wai-lun, for some arrangement where they can speak to the public.
Some members of the task force are said to have raised suspicions that the administration appeared to be deliberately keen on handling the report in a low profile manner.
After all, they said, some recommendations put forward by the panel in its final report aren’t necessarily to the government’s taste, such as the “bold” suggestions that part of the Fanling Golf Course be taken back for housing development, and, more importantly, that the administration enhance transparency in land supply and expedite the process of land creation.
According to those members of the task force, these recommendations are difficult to carry out, and some of the suggestions also do not find favor with the government.
While only the officials responsible for the issue can really tell whether the government was downplaying the report on purpose, it now remains to be seen whether the administration will accept the task force’s recommendations or simply shelve the entire report.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 1
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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