Lantau plan hit as 'upside down' solution

Local | Phoenix Un 14 Nov 2018

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was yesterday accused of "governing Hong Kong upside down" over her insistence that an artificial island off Lantau was the answer to the city's housing shortage.

The criticism came from Democracy Camp Meetings convener Claudia Mo Man-ching after Lam's latest comments over the controversial issue while heading to the Executive Council meeting yesterday.

The crux of the current spat is a University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Program published Monday showing 49 percent of respondents objected to the 1,700-hectare artificial island the government wants to create for housing.

Mo and the rest of the opposition in the Legislative Council want other options, especially developing brownfield sites, to be given first consideration.

Results from the HKU survey showed 49 percent objected to the artificial island and more than 70 percent believed the government should utilize brownfields first before considering an artificial island.

Asked if the plan would be withdrawn if mainstream public opinion was against it, Lam said it would be difficult to reach a comprehensive consensus.

She believed that as the latest queuing time for public rental housing flats has lengthened to 5 years, the government should react responsibly.

"My initial observation to [the public consultation of Task Force on Land Supply] is that there are three important principles to land supply: first, it demands immediate action; second, it should be handled from several angles; third, it should be planned ahead. Reclamation is inevitable, if we are to satisfy all three demands," Lam said.

She also believed results of surveys depended on how questions were asked, as people would certainly prefer brownfields if they were asked whether they agreed to develop brownfields before reclamation.

Meanwhile, when asked about President Xi Jinping's comment that Hong Kong should defend national safety, Lam said it rings a bell with what she had pointed out in the policy address.

"Although I said previously that we will have to treat this issue very prudently because of previous controversies, that doesn't mean that we will take no action when we have some local existing legislation that could address any acts undermining national security or advocating independence of Hong Kong," Lam said.

The HKU researchers also released the latest popularity figures of Lam and her administration, with Lam's popularity rating rising slightly to 52.3 marks, compared with the 51.7 marks two weeks earlier.

Her approval rate was 40 percent and disapproval rate was 45 percent, giving a net popularity of negative five percentage points, a drop from negative one percentage point last time.

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