A group of incoming pro-democracy lawmakers have said the government must answer six big questions over the controversial housing development plan in Yuen Long. The lawmakers said they will attempt to invoke the special power of the Legislative Council to investigate the incident if they do not get answers.

The move came after Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor distanced themselves from the housing plan for the Wang Chau area of Yuen Long. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying planned to host a press conference on Wednesday on the issue.

Leung said the government was willing to build a platform to discuss the development project with lawmaker-elect Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, but Chu refused. “The government’s performance has lost the public’s trust,” he said.

legco lawmakers
Photo: Facebook/Eddie Chu.

The development project in Wang Chau was originally planned to provide 17,000 public housing units – but 13,000 units were delayed without a completion date, and the construction of the remaining 4,000 units will force 100 villagers out of their homes.

Local media revealed documents that said Leung was the chairman of a task force managing the project as questions were raised as to whether the government made deals with rural leaders to delay the units. Some units will replace an illegal car park on a piece of partly government-owned land.

Chu criticised the suggestion to join the platform. He said it was similar to the “soft lobbying” mechanism – informal talks with rural leaders over the development project before a final plan is forged – that he strongly opposes. He said communications with the government should be open, transparent, and democratic.

Chu said he would rather bring the issue back to the Legislative Council and seek the “biggest united force… to set things right.”

legislative council
File photo: HKFP.

Answers demanded

The government will hold a press conference on the Wang Chau development at 3:30pm on Wednesday. The Chief Executive, the Financial Secretary, the Secretary for Transport and Housing and the Acting Secretary for Development will be present, among other officials.

In response, Chu invited six other lawmaker-elects to read out six points for the government to address at the press conference. They are as follows:

  • The government must explain who made the decision to reduce the size of the development from 17,000 to 4,000 housing units;
  • The government must release the roles, membership, attendance records and minutes of the task force meetings chaired by the Chief Executive and the Steering Committee on Land Supply chaired by the Financial Secretary;
  • The government must explain why the Chief Executive formed the task force, and if anyone outside the government was involved in the process;
  • The government must release the details of informal talks with rural leaders;
  • The government must reveal all feasibility studies completed since 2012;
  • The government must explain if there was any relationship between the relaunch of the village expansion area in Ha Mei San Tsuen in Yuen Long and the informal talks with rural leaders.

Lawmaker-elect Roy Kwong Chun-yu, also a Yuen Long district councillor, said he has never heard of a plan for 17,000 units at the district council. He asked if the council was kept from key information or if it was misled.

Lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung said: “If they cannot answer the questions, they are not capable of doing anything – then we will use LegCo’s special power to investigate them.”

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

Special power

The lawmakers said they may put forward a motion to invoke the Powers and Privileges Ordinance and form a committee to investigate the matter with the legal power to summon witnesses.

Chu said the investigation should focus on four directions: finding out how the incident occurred; seeking responsibility over the loss of integrity and the administration’s failure in governance; looking into possible ties between the government, businesses, rural groups and triads; and setting future directions for city planning.

Earlier, lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung told HKFP that the passing of the motion will rely on the pro-Beijing camp, as the pro-democracy camp does not have enough votes in the 35-seat functional constituency.

Asked about the motion’s chances of being passed, Chu said: “I hope the pro-Beijing camp lawmakers can understand the seriousness of this event, and that they realise what they can do as lawmakers. The way to defend our system is to cast a yes vote, so that the Legislative Council can gain back the trust of the public.”

Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching said that the pro-Beijing camp may not oppose the motion, as the Liberal Party also proposed to use the special power to investigate the case of its dropout candidate Ken Chow Wing-kan.

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.