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Friday, January 11, 2019, 10:26
Task force awaits response to land supply report
By Joseph Li in Hong Kong
Friday, January 11, 2019, 10:26 By Joseph Li in Hong Kong

This Aug 17, 2010 photo shows construction work being carried out as part of ongoing land reclamation in Hong Kong. (Mike Clarke / AFP)

The Task Force on Land Supply, which was appointed in September 2017 with the task of identifying land supply options to ease housing woes, submitted a report to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Dec 31 last year after 16 months of hard work. It did this ahead of schedule.

Upon receiving the report, the CE said the government would study it in detail and consider how to increase land supply.

As an architect, I aim to perform my job from the (land) planning point of view, but we were asked to deal with such a complicated, political issue. Fortunately, there are many professional people and academics sitting on the task force so we could discuss together to come up with conclusions

Vincent Ng Wing-shun, Member, Task Force on Land Supply, Hong Kong 

Task force member Vincent Ng Wing-shun, who is also a renowned architect and former president of Hong Kong Institute of Architects, said he hopes the government will accept most of the recommendations in the report — or even the entire report.

READ MORE: Report proposes 8 options to boost land supply

Ng recalled in an exclusive interview with China Daily that it was part of Lam’s election manifesto in 2017 to launch a society-wide debate on options to increase land for housing. 

At that time, Ng campaigned for her and they had discussed land and housing shortages at length.

“It was a highly arduous, and unpleasing, job,” he recalled. “When I knew I was appointed a member of the task force, I realized it was a very ‘big deal’ because it would involve a great deal of controversial issues. These included land shortages and whether land hegemony exits, as well as population policy.” 

He said these issues often sparked feelings of anger and injustice in society.

“As an architect, I aim to perform my job from the (land) planning point of view, but we were asked to deal with such a complicated, political issue. Fortunately, there are many professional people and academics sitting on the task force so we could discuss together to come up with conclusions.

“We are all volunteers who work for the government without being paid; we are not vested stakeholders; we all want to do something by telling the government what we believe in and what is good for Hong Kong,” Ng said. 

He added it would be up to the government to accept the majority or all of the recommended options.

Asked how the task force worked and came to conclusions on various options, Ng said members discussed these issues thoroughly before reaching conclusions without the need to vote on them.

He said: “During our discussions, it was easy to know if an option was accepted by the majority of members. If a member was not satisfied with something, he would speak out and ask questions. On occasions, we had members coming to terms with things and saying ‘I will not insist any longer.’”

ALSO READ: Have rational talks and avoid hyperbole to solve land issues

Ng praised task force chairman Stanley Wong Yuen-fai for his selfless efforts throughout the past 16 months. During this time, there were 185 engagement activities with the public and stakeholders. In addition, close to 100,000 pieces of public opinion were received; nearly 3,000 random telephone surveys were conducted to help task force members to narrow their differences.

“The chairman’s hard-working attitude prompted me to join him at nearly 30 such activities and meetings though I still have a full time job,” he said.

Ng further highlighted the importance of quality compared with the quantity of public opinions received. For questionnaires and signatures, it is easier to get a lot of people involved. But “live” telephone surveys are more scientific; it is impossible to get a great number of people to submit the same opinions, he noted.

He asked: “If you receive a letter backed by several tens of thousands of people on one hand, and a statement from a professional body with tens of thousands members on the other, which do you thinks carries more weight?”

joseph@chinadailyhk.com

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