Transcript of remarks at press conference on Wang Chau development
Reporter: Mr Leung, you said you are responsible to decide the project to be carried out in phases. Are you in any ways involved in those informal negotiations with the rural representatives? And, Professor Cheung, some reports said phase 2 and 3 has to be suspended because some rural leaders are unhappy about it. I mean, is it still true now? And last question is for Mr Tsang. C Y Leung has claimed the responsibility over this issue. Do you agree with him, and do you think you have any responsibility in this?
Chief Executive: The exact words I used were that I was in charge. As the Chief Executive of Hong Kong and Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Government, I should be in charge of matters like this, and these two sites are huge sites. They are very rare opportunities for the Government to be able to build large numbers of housing units, and they are all public housing units - either public rental housing units or Home Ownership Scheme units to help people who cannot afford decent housing in the private market. And I would ask everyone to look at our decision and our work on these two sites against the background of what we have done for Hong Kong to ease the housing shortage problem in the last four years. Prices and rents have dropped since we took over, against the general background of a rising trend in the Asia-Pacific markets, so that's the background.
We'll continue to increase housing supply and I want to be in charge of these projects because they are rare opportunities for Hong Kong to address, in each of these situations, the acute shortage of public housing in Hong Kong, and each of them produces, we expect them to produce in due course, over 10,000 units, and they are very rare opportunities. It is only right for me as the head of the Government, as the head of Hong Kong, to take charge. And that's what I did. And to answer your earlier question, no, I did not take part in any of the consultation with, or the lobbying of, anyone outside of government, and I believe that the opening remarks of the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung, at the beginning clearly stated that fact.
Secretary for Transport and Housing: On the question of local informal consultation, lobbying work, I did not take part because this was the normal function of the Department, the Housing Department colleagues. I could tell you that those colleagues from Housing Department who took part were from the professional grades and sometimes an Assistant Director led the team.
Phases 2 and 3 of Wang Chau development have never been dropped. In the paper to the Yuen Long District Council in April 2014 when we talked about the various sites in Yuen Long for development, it was very clearly stated in the appendix that the Wang Chau site was Wang Chau Phase 1. Whenever we were asked questions by the LegCo, we stated that it was Wang Chau Phase I because Phases 2 and 3 remained on our planning radar. But of course there are challenges that we have to face in developing Phases 2 and 3, the contamination issue because of environment concerns, the brownfield operations that we have to deal with, these remain to be challenges. But as I said earlier, we are now planning to commence another technical study because we are going to move along and because we are concurrently doing this with the Development Bureau’s study on how to handle the brownfield operations, so hopefully we will be able to come up with some proposals. But at the end of the day, we still need the community support, we still need the District Council support in taking forward phases 2 and 3. I have heard some commentators these days (said) that we should touch brownfield. I hope they would not eat their words. I hope eventually they would support our efforts.
Financial Secretary: You asked me whether I agree with my boss. You always agree with your boss. No question about that. You know, I take my responsibility very seriously as the Chairman of the Steering Committee on Land Supply. Actually, the former name was Steering Committee on Housing (Land) Supply, which started back in 2010 in the previous administration, and I was also the Chairman of that and then we changed the name to Land Supply when this administration began. And we have made all the efforts that we can, involving all the departments and bureaus that are responsible for land and different matters, in terms of co-ordinating Government's effort in identifying the land that could be used for all different purposes, from housing to other purposes that could generate economic gains for the community. We also deal with a lot of the planning issues and hopefully that we could build up a reserve for future, but that is another issue because we are in such great demand for land, so we're actually using up everything that we have been able to identify. So we do take our responsibility extremely seriously. Thank you.
Reporter: My questions are for both CE and FS. First of all, at the meeting where all the Principal Officials were present, did anyone object or raise query over the deferral of phase 2 and phase 3 of the scheme? And second question is, now we know that it's a collective decision to defer the scheme, why didn't the CE tell us earlier that it's a collective decision? Because a few days ago you only mentioned that the FS committee were to follow up the detailed issues. Were you trying to shift the blame to FS? And also for the FS, you gave us in your reply that your committee did not take part in the decision to phase the project. Didn't it mislead the public that you have no role at all? And my final question is the target date for completion for phase 2 and 3 – that's the year 2026 and 2027 – still valid?
Chief Executive: It is a fact, as I mentioned, and as announced by the Financial Secretary, by John, that the Steering Committee on Land Supply was asked to carry out detailed discussions on Queen's Hill and Wang Chau by the task force, which I chaired. If you listen to our opening remarks, that's what we exactly stated. Now, when questions are asked of the Government as to what happened three years ago, what happened at a meeting in 2013, three years ago, we cannot rely just on our personal recollection. We have to go back and ask all the departments to dig out their files and so on, so forth, and come up with a government position to make sure we do not mislead our friends in the media and the general public. And that's why I said a couple of days ago I will answer that question as to whether I took part in the decision at that task force meeting at the press conference today, which is exactly what we are doing.
Financial Secretary: Actually, referring to that question, I was asked, you know, pointedly that whether the Steering Committee had made the decision in terms of splitting the staging of the housing production, and I mean it was obviously a yes or no answer. No, it wasn't the decision of the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee was responsible in identifying the land that was necessary. So I was asked that question by the reporter, and so we answer it in the simplest way we can.
Chief Executive: Perhaps I should repeat this in English, what I said, and this is supported by what my colleagues have said. The departments, based on their professional expertise and based on their informal consultation and the results of the lobbying efforts on the ground, made their recommendation to the Secretary. So it's a filtering out process. And when they got to the three C meeting – incidentally, it wasn't a meeting attended by all Principal Officials. It's a meeting that I chair attended by the three senior Secretaries of Government, namely Chief Secretary, Financial Secretary and Secretary for Justice. It is a forum where we discuss and steer departments on major issues, not just land and housing and planning issues. We also hear progress reports. At this three C meeting三司會, we get progress reports on major planning, land supply and housing issues. So that's the forum. And the progress report got to this meeting and I supported, as I said in my opening remarks, I supported the proposal of the department and asked them to move in this general direction. The important thing is we did not abandon the rest of the phases.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Issued at HKT 20:09
Issued at HKT 20:09