The Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has denied having personal discussions with rural leaders over a controversial Yuen Long public housing plan, after reports cited government internal documents as saying that he was the chairman of a task force heading the development project.
The documents acquired by Apple Daily, said that “Soft lobbying with local community leaders was carried out in July and September 2013” for the proposed production of 17,000 public housing units in Wang Chau as rural leaders supported the first phase – 4,000 units on a piece of greenbelt land inhabited by over 100 non-indigenous villagers. However, they opposed the second and third phase of development at a brownfield site – on car parks operated by Ping Shan Rural Committee chairman Tsang Shu-wo.
See also: In Pictures: At the centre of a political storm, Wang Chau villagers face eviction but hope for justice
“Given the outcome of soft lobbying, HD [Housing Department] considers it unlikely to be able to proceed with Phases 2 and 3 in short to medium term without revisiting the reprovisioning policy for open storage areas by the government,” the document read.
The Chief Executive’s office then issued a statement in response to the Apple Daily reports on Saturday: “The Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, has never discussed the issue with individuals not in the Government.”
Another statement by the government said that “The task force, chaired by the Chief Executive, met only once on June 27, 2013.”
The Chinese-language newspaper said that Tsang then led a group of people in August 2013 – after the first soft lobbying session – to “give high-profile support to Leung” outside a local forum in Tin Shui Wai. Local media reported at the time that the group beat up protesters opposing Leung.
In response to the allegations, Leung’s office said: “The Chief Executive expressed deep regret over these allegations which are totally fabricated and unfounded.”
The events came after lawmaker-elects Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Edward Yiu Chung-yim met with two government ministers on Thursday to discuss the Wang Chau plan, which was one of Chu’s major concerns in his election platform.
Chu remains under police protection after he reported death threats against him in early September, likely related to his opposition to the existing Wang Chau plan. Chu had accused lawmaker and former Yuen Long district council chairman Leung Che-cheung of pressuring the government to build elsewhere, so that Tsang could keep the car parks from being taken back by the government for the plan.
After the meeting with ministers, Chu criticised the informal meetings with rural leaders, saying that they did not involve the villagers affected and were a form of “collusion between the government, businesses, rural groups and triads.”
At the time, Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said that such informal talks may not be recorded at all.
He also said the delayed second and third phases required arrangements for necessary infrastructure works such as transport, water supplies, drainage, among other factors. Cheung denied any collusion.
Democratisation of city planning
More than 20 pro-democracy incoming lawmakers co-signed a statement saying the discussion for the project at the Legislative Council in March did not mention the informal meetings, the impact of the opinions collected from the meetings on the plan, and the fact that Leung was the chairman of the task force – before a funding proposal for the Wang Chau plan was passed by the Finance Committee.
“We have reasons to believe that the Legislative Council was kept from key information and was seriously misled in the discussion of the Wang Chau plan – we demand the government immediately investigate the legitimacy of the funding,” the statement read.
They also demanded the government explain the guidelines and principles for conducting public consultations for land development projects, saying that it should restart a public consultation for the Wang Chau plan, and stop the informal talks mechanism.
Chu, during a Facebook live session on Saturday, said: “We hope that starting from the Wang Chau plan, we can push for the democratisation of city planning.”
Part of the documents in August 2014 acquired by Apple Daily:
The Task Force on Wang Chau and Queen’s Hill Site has been set up under the chairmanship of the CE. Both sites have been confirmed for development of public housing with the following production and completion date:
Soft lobbying with local community leaders was carried out in July and September 2013, and they generally supported Phase 1 development, but not Phases 2 to 3（13000 flats, plot ratio 6.0）.
Given the outcome of soft lobbying, HD considers it unlikely to be able to proceed with Phases 2 and 3 in short to medium term without revisiting the reprovisioning policy for open storage areas by the government.