Incoming lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick has said that he is inclined to invoke the Powers and Privileges Ordinance to investigate the Wang Chau controversy.
Chu appeared on an RTHK programme on Thursday alongside pro-Beijing DAB chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king and incoming lawmaker Edward Yiu Chung-yim to discuss the Chief Executive’s press conference on Wednesday, which addressed the government’s decision to build 17,000 public housing flats in phases.
The construction of 13,000 units on a Wang Chau brownfield site occupied by a rural strongman’s car park was postponed, whilst a plan to build 4,000 flats on a green-belt site occupied by non-indigenous villages was given the go-ahead. As evidence of off-the-record lobbying with rural leaders emerged, a blame game ensued as the government stood accused of bowing to pressure at the expense of villagers. The controversy was the centrepiece of incoming lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick’s election campaign.
Lee said that she did not see the need to invoke the Powers and Privileges Ordinance: “I will liaise with the Secretary [for Transport and Housing] to release related documents to incoming lawmakers,” she told reporters. “And we can also follow up on the case in the Panel on Development in LegCo.”
Yiu said he was disappointed that no records of the meetings were disclosed during the press conference. The government’s focus on brownfield sites during Wednesday’s press conference was only to divert attention, he said.
Chu asked Lee to apologise on behalf of former district councillor, and fellow DAB member, Leung Che-cheung for “betraying” the villagers of Wang Chau during soft lobbying sessions with the government. Leung urged the government not to develop the car park site. However, Lee said that – during his meetings with the government – Leung was responsible for reflecting the concerns and demands of all residents, including those who lived outside of the Wang Chau villages.
Lee said “soft lobbying” was necessary “but should not replace formal consultations.” She added that “soft lobbying” was an unfortunate choice of words as it was simply a case of informal communication.
She added that there was indeed room for improvement in the Wang Chau development plans, such as a more inclusive consultation, or a review for the use brownfield sites.
‘Democratise urban planning’
During the radio show, Chu said that when he first brought the Wang Chau controversy to the public’s attention, he wanted to diminish the influence of powerful people in urban planning decisions. Chu said that he hoped that the public would not be distracted by supposed political infighting among the city’s top leaders: “This is not about the upcoming CE election… This is about the general direction of Hong Kong’s urban planning,” he said.
The urban planning process needs to be democratised “especially towards the weak and the voiceless,” Chu said. He said he hoped lawmakers from the pro-establishment camp understood that for there to be fewer conflicts in Hong Kong, changes need to be made to the city’s urban planning system.
In addition, Chu said none of the six big questions put forward by non-establishment lawmakers the day prior to Leung Chun-ying’s press conference were answered, including the disclosure of who, when, and where the “soft lobbying” sessions occurred; the disclosure of records and members of the Wang Chau development task force; and whose decision it was to reduce the number of public housing units from 17,000 to 4,000.