Henry Tang and Leung Chun-ying, the front-runners in the race to be Hong Kong’s next leader, promised to ease a housing shortage by increasing land supply near mainland China should they get elected.
The two men, who between them have secured nomination from more than half of the 1,200-member election committee, will also consider reclaiming land at the city’s Victoria harbor, according to replies to questions posed to them by the South China Morning Post published today.
“Large areas in the New Territories are under-developed,” Leung, 57, wrote, adding that he would set up a committee to assess housing demand, prepare a list of land for sale and restart reclamations.
Property prices have surged 66 percent since the start of 2009 because of inadequate land sales by the government, low interest rates and investment demand from China. Tang and Leng have won nominations from the chairmen at Hong Kong’s four biggest developers by market value, who are on the election committee that will pick the city’s next leader on March 25.
Tang, a former chief secretary, has 378 nominations from the committee, which comprise of executives, professionals and lawmakers. Leung, a former government adviser, has got 293 nominations, according to papers filed by the candidates.
The election campaign in the past two weeks has been dominated by public calls for Tang to quit after he admitted knowledge of a basement built illegally by his wife. Photographs of the property’s swimming pool show skylights in the bottom that let light into the basement, which is twice the size of more than 90 percent of private homes in the city, according to government data.
The 209-square-meter (2,250-square-foot) basement contained a wine cellar, gym, and movie theater, according to newspapers including Apple Daily and South China Morning Post.
Albert Ho, a lawmaker who has secured 183 nominations, advocated a relaxation on the height of buildings and land usage for new development, and reusing industrial buildings to ease a housing shortage, according to his reply to the newspaper. Regina Ip, the city’s former security chief who wants to enter the contest, suggested asking China to grant Hong Kong more land.
The four candidates were also asked their views on schooling, pollution, the use of Hong Kong’s fiscal reserves and their plan to advance universal suffrage. China has pledged that this will be the last time Hong Kong picks its leader by committee, with a move toward universal suffrage by 2017.
Leung and Ho said the city should adopt guidelines by the World Health Organization on pollution standards, which Tang objected to. Leung, Tang and Ho advocated using some of the city’s fiscal reserves to provide more social services and investments and narrow its wealth gap. Ip said Hong Kong should set up a sovereign wealth fund.
Tang is backed by Li Ka-shing, the chairman of Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd., Thomas Kwok, co-chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. and Lee Shau Kee, chairman of Henderson Land Development Co. Among Leung’s supporters is Hang Lung Properties Ltd. Chairman Ronnie Chan.