Two Democratic Party district councillors have criticised the government’s statement that they were involved in a “soft lobbying” session – an informal meeting – over the controversial Yuen Long housing plan. The government’s statement is “smearing,” they claimed.
The housing minister claimed on Wednesday that Zachary Wong Wai-yin and Roy Kwong Chun-yu, both Yuen Long district councillors, were involved in the fourth and final informal meeting on the Wang Chau public housing plan held on March 17, 2014. They agreed with the plan of building 4,000 units on a piece of greenbelt land inhabited by more than 100 villagers, the minister said.
But both Wong and Kwong said that it was a briefing session on the plan, rather than an informal consultation, as they were never asked about the original plan to build 17,000 units.
Of the 17,000 units, 13,000 units set on a piece of ruined land – which was turned into a car park operated by Ping Shan Rural Committee chairman Tsang Shu-wo – was delayed after strong opposition from two informal meetings with Tsang and rural leaders, months before the government’s meeting with Wong and Kwong.
On a Commercial Radio programme on Thursday, Wong said that the March 2014 meeting occurred in a meeting room of the Yuen Long district office of the Home Affairs Department and that he was invited by an assistant district officer.
He said it was mostly attended by technical staff from the Housing Department, who introduced them to the 4,000-unit plan. They were consulted as a foot bridge of the project will pass through their constituencies, according to Wong.
“My first opinion was that it was not good to use greenbelt land – it should not be used to build flats, and I have reservations,” he said. “I am sure we never supported the plan on March 17 .”
One and only occasion
He said he only supported the 4,000-unit plan when it was submitted to the Yuen Long district council on June 24, 2014, as the district councillors agreed “there was an urgent need to build public housing.”
“But at the end of the meeting I said this would be the one and only occasion where we would support building flats on greenbelt land – there will not be a second time,” he said.
Wong cited a Sing Tao Daily report on Thursday, which cited a government source as saying that he and Kwong were never informed of the original 17,000-unit plan.
“[The housing minister] was not only framing us – it was smearing,” Wong said.
No knowledge of numbers
Past clippings shared on the internet since Wednesday quoted Kwong responding to media enquiries over the Housing Department’s plan to build 17,000 flats. Meanwhile, some questioned that Kwong had knowledge of the original number of flats.
“I believe those were figures intentionally leaked by the Housing Department, journalists should know very well that they received the leaked figures from sources – how would I have the figures in my mind?” said Kwong, who was recently elected as a lawmaker, told reporters on Thursday.
“The figures were leaked to reporters, and then reporters asked me… the informal meeting did not mention 17,000 [units], it was not mentioned at the district council, there were no top government officials who were in touch with me,” Kwong added.