Hong Kong media and tobacco tycoon Charles Ho has suggested moving Hong Kong’s prisons to the mainland in order to free up land for housing.
The businessman is also the chairman of the Sing Tao News Corporation and a member of China’s top advisory body.
He said on TVB’s On the Record talk show on Sunday that the Development Bureau’s Task Force on Land Supply was “useless.” He criticised it for suggesting that an exclusive golf course in Fanling could be used to build flats.
“[A]fter messing around with this and that, they suggested using half of the golf course [in Fanling] – how many units can they build there? Here’s a suggestion for them, would they consider it? Move Hong Kong prisons to the mainland – how much extra land would you have then? And there’s another benefit – you wouldn’t have to worry about those guys escaping.”
The task force said in February that it would put up plans for both the partial and full development of the golf course – leased to the Hong Kong Golf Club until 2020 – for consultation. It expressed an opinion that partial development of the land would provide faster relief for the housing crisis than full development.
Ho explained his opposition to the Fanling plan by saying: “Hong Kong is an international city… there are many foreign companies in Hong Kong, and they need many sports, entertainment, and facilities to build social networks – you cannot throttle all the parts of these things that provide invisible benefits, allowing people doing business to communicate.”
When the host asked if he considered this a trade-off compared to the more important problem of affordable housing for young people, Ho said: “If there’s a trade-off then [I] suggest we move the prisons – they occupy so much land, why don’t you use it, why don’t you move them?”
Ho said he thought the government should proactively restrain the rise of housing prices, increase stamp duty for foreign homebuyers, and provide tax exemptions for Hongkongers who have lived in the city for more than 18 years.
Ho made similar comments about the task force’s plan for the golf course last Thursday, saying they should instead use reclaimed land. In response, Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, the chair of the task force, said he was surprised at Ho’s comments, and added that the group welcomes all opinions, does not have a pre-conceived stance, and that the project would be put up for public discussion.
He added that there was no single project that could solve all of Hong Kong’s land supply problems, and that the group needed to examine projects that would take a shorter time to develop in order to meet short-term demand.
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