Executive Council member Cheung Chi-kong has asked the public not to “make a fuss” over soft lobbying as it is “an inevitable part of political life.”
The senior official said in a Commercial Radio programme on Monday that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had personally “knocked on the doors” of different parties to push for brownfield development. But Cheung refused to disclose which parties the embattled leader had approached.
Cheung’s comments were in reference to the recent controversy whereby the government held closed-door meetings with rural leaders and subsequently scaled down a Wang Chau public housing project from 17,000 flats to just 4,000 units.
The use of off-the-record “soft lobbying” was criticised as a form of collusion between the government and powerful rural groups. Rural leaders opposed the development plan in order to protect their interests in the area such as a car park business.
But Cheung said that the Leung administration is determined to develop brownfield sites despite a lack of precedent, and that the government has researched solutions for relocating businesses that currently operate on such sites.
Cheung added that it is up to the government to decide what to reveal to the public, as disclosing the feasibility reports of the Wang Chau housing project may backfire.
The Executive Council official has worked with Leung for over a decade and is known as his longtime backer. Cheung reiterated on Monday his support of Leung’s re-election, praising his policies on housing, elderly care, poverty alleviation and environmental protection.
“Hong Kong needs people like Mr. Leung,” said Cheung.
Update 23:20: Cheung has issued a statement to clarify his reference to Leung Chun-ying “personally knocking on doors” of different parties. He claims that he meant Leung had asked the relevant government departments to “proactively study” the feasibility of developing brownfield sites.