Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the government will not give up on the controversial Lantau Tomorrow Vision housing project, and relevant studies for the HK$624 billion development should begin as soon as possible.

In her fourth policy address on Wednesday, Lam said the artificial islands project – 70 per cent of which promises to be public housing – would be more effective in alleviating medium-term and long-term housing needs than changing land use zoning in existing urban areas.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam before she delivers the 2020 Policy Address. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

She said the project aimed to develop a liveable and carbon-neutral community, and has already been discussed in society: “Lantau Tomorrow originates from the East Lantau reclamation project that was proposed in 2011. Discussions have been brewing in Hong Kong society for almost ten years. We should not waste any more time,” she said.

Roads and railways in northern Lantau would be linked up to those on Hong Kong Island. Tuen Mun’s coastal areas would also be connected to relieve pressure on the public transport system, according to the policy address.

“The government of this term will not give up on the Lantau Tomorrow Vision project,” the leader said.

HK01 cited a source as saying that the government planned to discuss funding for Lantau Tomorrow studies this Friday at the legislative finance committee. After democrats quit the legislature in protest of lawmaker disqualifications, it is now more likely to pass into law.

Lantau Island. File Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Typhoonchaser/cc-by-sa 3.0.

Lam announced during the policy address that that all government staffing proposals awaiting discussion would be withdrawn in order to make way for the bill.

Demo ahead of policy address

League of Social Democrats (LSD) activist Leung Kwok-hung slammed Lam’s plan to push Lantau Tomorrow Vision amid high unemployment due to the Covid-19 pandemic: “It costs HK$100,000 for each of the seven million Hongkongers to build the most expensive artificial island in the world, so that Carrie Lam can please her master and Chinese tycoons can profit from it,” he said.

He and his LSD colleague Raphael Wong protested outside the Legislative Council ahead of the policy address on Wednesday. They criticised the government’s three rounds of anti-epidemic spending for benefitting private corporations more than the working class, adding a suggestion that HK$30 billion should be earmarked to fund unemployment benefits.

Leung Kwok-hung. Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

Lam’s fourth policy address – which totalled over 24,000 words – was the first delivered to a LegCo without the presence of an effective opposition.

The chief executive previously said she expects rationality to be restored in the chamber after all democrats resigned en masse. Leung – an ex-lawmaker – said the lawmakers left LegCo due to oppression and said Lam’s definition of rationality was barbarity.

Other housing measures

Lam said the government has secured 330 hectares of land to build 316,000 public housing units that will satisfy the housing needs over a 10-year term.

Land development projects will target Tung Chung, Kai Tak, the Anderson Road Quarry Site, parts of the Fanling golf course, and brownfield lands. Tai Hang Sai Estate in Sham Shui Po and interim housing in Shek Lei will also be redeveloped.

Photo: CityU.

Land currently covered by squatter areas in Cha Kwo Ling, Ngau Chi Wan an Chuk Yuen would be used to provide 6,300 public housing units. Three factory estate sites managed by the Housing Authority will be repurposed to provide 3,000 units by 2031.

The government will also launch a pilot scheme which subsidises NGOs to rent hotel and guesthouse rooms at a low rate to provide transitional housing.

Lam added that double stamp duty on non-residential properties will be scrapped on Thursday, in view of economic downturn during the pandemic.

“Hong Kong has entered the age of silence. Silence is not rational. Rationality is achieved through debates. The legislature is popularly elected by the people to monitor the government,” he said. “Carrie Lam’s definition of rationality is in fact barbarity.”

The policy address was expected in mid-October but the city’s leader postponed it for over a month to insert a trip to mainland China to meet top Beijing ministers. She then said the delayed policy address would have input from those meetings.

Other housing policies

Lam said the government expected to provide some 316,000 housing units in the coming ten years, and 330 hectares of land had been indentified for this purpose.

Shek Lei Interim Housing. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Land development projects will target Tung Chung, Kai Tak, the Anderson Road Quarry Site, parts of the Fanling golf course, and brownfield lands. Tai Hang Sai Estate in Sham Shui Po and interim housing in Shek Lei will also be redeveloped.

Land currentlyi covered by squatter areas in Cha Kwo Ling, Ngau Chi Wan and Chuk Yuen would be used to provide 6,300 public housing units.

Rachel Wong

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.