Pro-democracy lawmakers have voiced their dissatisfaction over the government’s explanation for the Wang Chau development plan controversy. They have pledged to investigate the issue at the Legislative Council once the term begins in October.
The government said on Wednesday that it could not find the records of a crucial informal talk with rural leaders on March 12, 2014. During the session, it was decided that only 4,000 public housing units would be built in Yuen Long’s Wang Chau area, and that 13,000 other units on a piece of land turned into a car park operated by a rural leader would be delayed.
“That was the most important session,” lawmaker-elect Edward Yiu Chung-yim said. “Only this session was without any meeting records, but the ones before that were all recorded – this is extremely unusual.”
Yiu slammed the government’s consultation process, as he said the informal talks were the major deciding factor in reducing the size of the project, but no public consultation was ever carried out. As a result, he said that rural strongman Tsang Shu-wo was able to keep his car park, but more than 100 villagers were forced to move.
Yiu also said that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying did not explain why he was the chairman of a task force on the development plan, and the roles of the other 20-odd task forces he was part of.
On Tuesday night, Apple Daily revealed government documents that said the controversial housing plan was scaled back because the government wished to “avoid confrontation” with a rural leader. Yiu said the government did not address the content of the document.
The government said the delayed 13,000 units would not be included in a regular ten-year housing plan, and that the completion time was unknown.
“There is no timetable and roadmap – it means that there will not be Phase Two and Three,” Yiu said.
Yiu also accused the government of shifting the focus from alleged collusion with rural leaders to engineering difficulties on brownfield sites.
The government’s fourth and final informal meeting, held on March 17, 2014, was with Zachary Wong Wai-yin and Roy Kwong Chun-yu – both Democratic Party Yuen Long district councillors.
Housing minister Anthony Cheung Bing-leung had claimed they agreed with the plan of building 4,000 units. But – in a joint statement – Wong and Kwong both denied having knowledge of the original proposal to build 17,000 units and the eventual plan to build in phases, with 4,000 units first.
They said they only met with a manager from the Housing Department in a meeting room of the Home Affairs Department, no other officials were present.
“That meeting was not a ‘soft lobbying’ session or consultation. The manager only told us there would be a plan to build 4,000 public housing units,” the statement read.
They said they were asked for opinions only because a foot bridge at the new public housing site would pass through their districts. However, during the meeting, they asked the government why it did not use uninhabited land owned by developer New World for the public housing project.
“The manager told us that that land was owned by a single developer – it was difficult to take it back,” it read. “Wong then asked why not take back the developer’s land? Why take a piece of inhabited land? The manager could not come up with a straight answer.”
Kwong slammed the statement from Cheung, saying it was “twisting facts.”
Lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung said the legislature should cite the Powers and Privileges Ordinance to investigate the matter.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was revealed to be a chairman of a task force on the Wang Chau project. It was a rare move as most land issues should be handled by the Steering Committee on Land Supply chaired by the Financial Secretary.
“There must be something he [Leung] wanted to do,” Leung Kwok-hung said.
Leung said the LegCo investigated Leung Chin-man, former Permanent Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, over a “more minor” housing controversy, therefore it should do the same for the Wang Chau incident.