Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has defended his Policy Address claim that all commitments in his election manifesto “have basically been implemented.”
His final address focused on livelihood issues, including land, environment, poverty alleviation and healthcare.
When asked the lack of a universal pension scheme, he said that he never promised a one in his election manifesto to cover everyone – only a programme for some.
“We should only provide to those who are needy -many people in society do not need our help,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Leung said he never applied to receive the HK$6,000 cash handout given to citizens in 2011 – which was proposed by John Tsang, the financial secretary at the time.
“The HK$6,000 is still in the treasury, I don’t need it,” he said. “Why do I want to take money belonging to those who pick aluminium cans from the streets [for a living]?”
In his address, Leung announced the gradual cancellation of the mechanism whereby employers can use employee’s individual Mandatory Provident Fund contributions to pay severance and long service payments.
He said the government had spent a lot of time in the past four years handling housing and political reform issues, and that it did not have time to deal with the problem. But the government is in a better condition now, than two to three years ago, to finally tackle the issue.
The policy address also failed to provide a decision as to whether there will be any legislation on standard working hours. But Leung said he would give directions on the matter before the end of his term.
On the housing issue, he said the supply has increased during his term, despite criticism that the government did not do much to keep property prices from rising.
He recalled criticism in 1997 when he, and former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, proposed the goal of building no fewer than 85,000 housing units annually. The policy failed.
“When it started, people said it was too little, too late,” he said. “But when the demand dropped after the financial environment changed and a massive drop in property prices, people said you have done too much, too rigorously.”
“If, one day, the property market is similar to the situation in 1997, 1998 once again – please don’t say Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was doing too much at the time,” he added.
He said that the government is still pushing for the target of 480,000 units within ten years – which was proposed in 2014.
“If I had a magic wand, I would be very willing to produce the 480,000 units with a wave, to satisfy this scientific and objective demand estimate,” he said.
A main controversial announcement in the address was to grant the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority the rights to develop the area’s hotel, office and residential portion with the private sector through open tender and a Build- Operate-Transfer arrangement. Rental revenue will be shared.
The rights were previously held by the government, rather than the Authority. Pro-democracy lawmakers have criticised the move as turning the area into a property development project with no oversight from the Legislative Council.
But Leung said that public organisations such as the Authority have good experience in managing such developments and that the development will be under the usual scrutiny.
“We hope the Authority can have united [control] over the area’s planning, designing and management,” he said.
Leung said he will “continue to join hands with all seven million Hong Kong people to make contributions to Hong Kong and our country.”
When asked if that meant he may run again for chief executive in 2022 – should he not be appointed to a national position – he said he will continue contributing to Hong Kong if the country and the city have a use for him.
Asked about his legacy, he said it would be useful if people go through his past policy addresses.
“Ask ourselves whether or not these are the right policies and measures that people in Hong Kong need, aspire to have,” he said.
“After I step down, speaking as a Hong Kong person, I would like – although I am just one of seven million – the new government to continue to look after the underprivileged, particularly the elderly, to spend more on health care… to build more buildings, particularly subsidised housing.”
But he refused to comment on who will be the best chief executive candidate to continue his policies.
Editor’s note: Digital media outlets such as Hong Kong Free Press are currently barred from attending government press conferences and posing questions.