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HK activists slam 'zone for rich'

By Bai Tiantian (Global Times)

08:26, September 24, 2012

A senior official in Hong Kong reiterated Saturday that a new development zone in Hong Kong is designed to serve local residents, as clashes broke out at a public meeting over suspicions that the development plan aims to cater to rich mainlanders.

Chan Mo-po, chief officer of Hong Kong's Development Bureau, said Saturday that the Hong Kong government is considering restricting private housing to Hong Kong residents, as well as increasing the proportion of public housing, a welfare housing service available only to low-income Hong Kong citizens, from 43 percent to over 50 percent, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Some 7,000 people attended the public consulting forum held by the Hong Kong government Saturday to learn about plans for a new development zone in the northeastern New Territories, an area connecting Hong Kong to the mainland, according to Commercial Radio Hong Kong.

The meeting was interrupted several times by protesters who demanded the plan be dropped, claiming that the development is aimed at providing luxury mansions to mainlanders, and will destroy the ecosystem as well as local farmers' livelihoods, Commercial Radio Hong Kong reported.

Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong's chief executive, said Friday that the accusation was "utterly unsubstantiated" and called on the public to "stop politicizing the event," according to Hong Kong Newspaper Ta Kung Pao.

"We estimate a 1.4 million increase in Hong Kong's population in the next 30 years, and the demand for housing and economic growth is still pressing," reads a statement on the government's official website.

This comment was echoed by Lau Pui-king, an accounting professor and a deputy to the National People's Congress from Hong Kong.

"It is a pity that a lot of land has been wasted in the past as the government did little or no job of urban planning in the 1960s and 1970s," said Lau, "There may be disagreement among various groups of people but overall I think the government is making a right move."

Vincent Ng, an architect from Hong Kong, told Radio France Internationale that some residents' worries were not unfounded, as half of the land in the development zone is owned by private real estate developers who would not hesitate to sell properties to buyers from the mainland or to push up prices.

"The Hong Kong government is aware of the surging prices of real estate and has been signing contracts with some developers, according to which the houses could only be sold to Hongkongers," said Lau, "Some may say it hurts the image of Hong Kong's free market, but the move is crucial in keeping the society stable."

"The development would be easier if the area were not located on the area bordering Hong Kong and Shenzhen," said Chen Lijun, a professor of politics in Hong Kong and Macao at the Sun Yat-sen University. "Hongkongers fear the development might allow access to more mainlanders who would compete with the locals for public and private resources."

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