Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has said that the government did not make any “trade-offs” with anyone over the Yuen Long housing plan, as he sought to shift the focus to Financial Secretary John Tsang. Leung was the chairman of a task force on the controversial development project, but he claims the issue was set to be reviewed by another committee chaired by Tsang.

The proposal for Wang Chau originally involved the construction of 17,000 flat units but it was reduced to 4,000 after plans were submitted to the Yuen Long district council. The 13,000 units which were postponed sit on a piece of partly government-owned land occupied by rural leader Tsang Shu-wo.

Leung Chun-ying
Leung Chun-ying. Photo: GovHK.

The plan recently grabbed headlines as lawmaker-elect Eddie Chu Hoi-dick made it a major focus of his election campaign. Leung said the government will host a news conference in a few days on the matter having previously said the government does not work with, or make compromises with, triads or “dark forces.”

“There is no trade-off at all. We are responsible to the entire Hong Kong community in resolving the long-standing housing shortage problem,” he said.

Leung said he noticed local media reports that cited internal government documents. The papers said the building of the 13,000 units was unlikely to to proceed “given the outcome of soft lobbying” with rural leaders, as they voiced opposition.

But he said it was only “part of the documents,” and that the 4,000 units were just Phase One of the project. However, he did not mention whether the remaining phases had won support from rural leaders.

John Tsang
John Tsang. Photo: Gov HK.

Leung ‘not in charge of details’

Leung claimed that part of the papers – which was not reported – stated that “detailed issues [are] to be followed up by the Steering Committee on Land Supply.” He said he did not sit on the committee but it was chaired by the Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

Leung said his role on the task force was to coordinate the work of the Development Bureau and the Transport and Housing Bureau, and the departments under them, in order “to make high-level, directional decisions.”

The Development Bureau operates under the Financial Secretary and the Transport and Housing Bureau is under the Chief Secretary. “Therefore it’s more appropriate not for any one of these two secretaries to be in charge of a committee to develop Wang Chau, but for the Chief Executive to co-ordinate the work,” Leung said.

Tsang ‘not responsible’

In response to enquiries from public broadcaster RTHK, a spokesperson for John Tsang’s office said Tsang was a member of the task force, but he never attended any meetings, and neither he – nor the steering committee –  was responsible for the decision to develop Wang Chau in separate phases.

The spokesperson added that government department submits progress reports on land supply to the Steering Committee that Tsang chairs, and the committee understands that there are differing opinion over the Wang Chau plan.

A press secretary for Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she was not a member of the task force or the steering committee that decided the phased development.

Leung said the task force he chaired was not only dealing with the Wang Chau project, but also the Queen’s Hill site in Fanling. He said the two projects will provide 20,000 residential units, including 17,000 in Wang Chau. “The land in Queen’s Hill all belongs to the government, there is no involvement with rural groups,” he said.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.