Community & Education Hong Kong Politics & Protest

Carrie Lam brushes aside plea to ‘rectify’ Wang Chau housing controversy

Chief Executive Carrie Lam has dismissed lawmaker Eddie Chu’s plea for her to meet residents of the soon-to-be-demolished Wang Chau villages in the New Territories.

The new Hong Kong leader was grilled by Chu during her first question and answer session at the Legislative Council on Wednesday, during which he asked her to “rectify” her predecessor Leung Chun-ying’s handling of the Wang Chau controversy.

eddie chu

Eddie Chu. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Five years ago, the government proposed to build public housing on a Wang Chau storage facility owned by a rural strongman. However, following closed-door soft lobbying by rural leaders, the government revised its proposal in 2014 and decided to demolish three Wang Chau villages for public housing, leaving the brownfield site untouched.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Chu brought public attention to the controversy after he was elected last September, but the legislature passed funding to demolish the villages for public housing in March.

See also: The defence of Wang Chau: Barricades are up, but villagers still hope for talks

“The Wang Chau incident was Leung Chun-ying’s doing,” Chu told Lam at LegCo on Wednesday morning. “You said during an election debate that you had nothing to do with it.”

“So are you willing to rectify these mistakes… to create a win-win scenario where villagers can remain in their homes, where the brownfield site’s businesses can survive, and we can also increase public housing?”

Wang Chau

Entrance to Wang Chau villages. File photo: HKFP/Elson Tong.

Chu proposed to build housing on the site of Wang Chau’s storage facility after relocating the current facility in the same district.

‘Personal accusations’

Lam said in response: “Legislator Chu has mentioned a lot of purported facts, which might in reality be his own personal accusations – like black box decisions, collusion, dealing with triads and so on.”

On July 2 – the day after her inauguration – the chief executive visited Ta Kwu Ling’s Chuk Yuen Village, a community that successfully relocated to make way for infrastructure construction. She used the village as an example in rejecting Chu’s proposal.

“On the day [of my visit], the villagers said that because they trusted the government, they limited the participants of the discussions to themselves, the government and some intermediaries such as the Heung Yee Kuk, the Rural Committee, and some district councillors – and [excluded] external parties.”

Carrie Lam Legislative Council LegCo

Carrie Lam. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

“[Chuk Yuen Village] tells us that Hong Kong’s development will inevitably affect some people,” she added. “Indeed some might feel they have to make sacrifices, and must leave the place they’ve lived in for a long time.”

“But the government is fair and just. Every time we redevelop and relocate people we follow our policies, or even provide some humane arrangements outside our policies so as to minimise the impact on villagers.”

Lam also ignored Chu’s demand that she promise to meet the Wang Chau villagers personally. “I will hand this specific case to the secretary for development for continuing follow-up work,” she said.

‘External parties’

Speaking to reporters after the question and answer session, Chu criticised Lam’s attitude towards the controversy. He said her reference to “external parties” joining the discussion was strange – he speculated that she was referring to him.

Wang Chau Legislative Council LegCo

Demonstrators opposing the demolition of the Wang Chau villages outside the Legislative Council on Wednesday. Photo: InMedia.

“This is really ridiculous, we are democratically-elected legislators,” said Chu. “Is she saying that the public should not ask legislators for help when they face problems?”

“Will the government not care about you anymore if you talk to ‘external parties’?”

Lam did not stop to speak to demonstrators outside the LegCo who were opposing the demolition of the Wang Chau villages as she arrived on Wednesday morning. But she stopped to talk to petitioners for other causes on Monday morning, her first working day as chief executive.

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Carrie Lam brushes aside plea to 'rectify' Wang Chau housing controversy