Chief executive contender Carrie Lam has said she could consider any legal and reasonable means to resolve the issue of the Small House Policy for indigenous people.

She was speaking at a closed door meeting on Wednesday with electors from the Heung Yee Kuk, which represents the interests of the powerful rural leaders of the New Territories.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo:

She said after the meeting that the Kuk believed she was more knowledgeable about rural issues than her rivals.

The Small House Policy states that certain male descendants have the right to build village houses of three storeys, but many have built extra structures on top of the three. Lam, as the development secretary in 2011, put forward a system for villagers to register the illegal structures on their houses. She and the Kuk were at loggerheads over whether to register or demolish illegal structures, but the issue soon faded out after the government backed down.

No immediate promises 

Lam said Kuk members mentioned during the meeting that she should review the registration system if she becomes chief executive.

“Any suggestions, in accordance with the law, and which are reasonable, could be considered,” she said. “But since I have left the position [of development secretary], directly handling the issue for some four years, I cannot immediately make a promise.”

The Kuk previously said its 27 election committee members will nominate the same contender together after a decision is made. Last week, the Kuk’s vice-chairman Cheung Hok-ming said it had reached a consensus that the 27 are inclined to nominate Lam.

Any contender requires at least 150 nominations to officially become candidates. Nominations given to contenders during the process between February 14 and March 1 will be known to public, unlike the final secret ballot on the March 26 voting day.

Gary Hau Chi-keung
Gary Hau Chi-keung. File Photo: Facebook.

Gary Hau Chi-keung, one of the 27 and the chairman of the Sheung Shui Rural Committee, told RTHK that there was no consensus over whether to nominate one contender altogether.

The Kuk is also meeting two contenders – Regina Ip and John Tsang on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, lawmaker Starry Lee, the chairwoman of the the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said most of the 100-odd electors in her party support Carrie Lam.

“The personal preferences of party members should be respected,” she said during a Commercial Radio programme on Wednesday.

She acknowledged  that Chan Yung and lawmaker Horace Cheung – both the party’s vice-chairmen – had joined Lam’s campaign team.

John Tsang
John Tsang (middle). Photo: Facebook.

But she said she would not back any chief executive contender before a decision is made by the party’s central committee.

Lee’s comments came after her party issued their criteria for the new chief executive on Tuesday, including a point that said the new leader should estimate the fiscal reserves correctly.

Asked if the point was specifically targeting John Tsang – who was accused of consistently underestimating fiscal reserves as the financial secretary – Lee on Wednesday said her party’s criticism over the matter had been a long-running issue.

“This is the responsibility of the whole government, and also an undeniable responsibility of the financial secretary – but, of course, it is not a personal [criticism],” she said.

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.