‘HK govt needs to listen to people, tackle housing’

A member of Beijing’s top think tank on Hong Kong said state leaders want the SAR government to communicate more with the public, and do more to address housing issues here.

Henry Ho, a council member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, was commenting on a speech made by Xia Baolong, the head of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, last Friday.

The top Beijing official on SAR affairs had said he hopes housing issues in Hong Kong would see great improvements, and the city would bid farewell to caged homes and subdivided houses by 2049.

Speaking on an RTHK programme on Monday, Ho said the speech is a clear indication that the central government cares a lot about livelihood matters in the SAR, and is quite concerned about the housing shortage here.

“President Xi Jinping has announced to the world that China has eradicated extreme poverty. Hong Kong is an international metropolis. Should we really wait till 2049 for us to say goodbye to subdivided flats?” Ho asked.

“From pointing out livelihood and land shortage issues in the past, to now focusing on problems of subdivided flats and cages homes, these all show that the central government is quite worried about housing problems in Hong Kong.”

The think tank member added that Xia also reminded SAR authorities to communicate more with the people, by saying that the Hong Kong government needs to do work that can be “seen and felt” by the public.

Ho noted that unlike Beijing’s Liaison Office staff, SAR officials hadn’t made a lot of district visits.

Speaking on the same show, Tang Po-shan from the Subdivided Flats Concerning Platform believes that the Hong Kong government will now have to work harder to address housing issues after getting reminders from Beijing officials.

“The government has on many occasions insisted that subdivided flats are here to serve a purpose … Of course if we outlaw 100,000 subdivided flats in one go, there will be problems about where people should live and whether there are enough rehousing policies. We understand that,” Tang said.

“But all past administrations have never set a target and a timetable to reduce in phases the amount of inadequate housing, especially subdivided flats.”

He urged officials to set clear goals and come up with a roadmap on how it plans to achieve those targets.