A former chief secretary, Anson Chan, says Wednesday's press conference by the Chief Executive CY Leung and some senior government officials, had failed to dispel suspicion of collusion between the government and indigenous rural leaders over a planned public housing project at Wang Chau in Yuen Long.
Leung had said it was his decision to build the housing in phases, starting in a greenbelt area where there are three non-indigenous villages, instead of a larger brownfield site run by a rural leader.
He also admitted there were four informal meetings between the government and rural heads, but denied bowing to pressure to scale down the project.
The government had originally wanted to build 17,000 public housing flats on both the brownfield site and the greenbelt area. It finally opted to build only 4,000 flats in the greenbelt area. The controversial decision led to accusations of collusion by activists and lawmakers, including New Territories West lawmaker-elect Chu Hoi-dick.
Chan, who is the head of the policy think tank HongKong 2020, said there was still suspicion that the government was making up the story as it goes along. She said there was a need for wider consultation.
"This is a very good opportunity for the government to consult the public", she said. "Point out the difficulties, consult the public and see how we can clear these brown sites", she said.
Chan said it was a bit absurd to convince the public that the government should defer to a rural leader, who is occupying an illegal site where he runs a car park, and instead evict the residents of three villages in the greenbelt area.
Meanwhile, lawmaker-elect Junius Ho – who is a member of the powerful rural body, the Heung Yee Kuk – said he felt the press conference by the Chief Executive CY Leung and other officials on Wednesday showed there was no collusion between the government and rural interests.
He said he believed the government followed due process in its consultation with various stakeholders over the project, and four informal meetings took place, as he put it, on top of this process.