Henry Tang opposes the Hong Kong government's decision to use golf course to build houses. Photo: i-Cable

The big debate on land supply in Hong Kong is getting messy. The public consultation that started last April on whether Hong Kong should utilize agricultural sites, reclaim land or reduce the area of country parks or golf courses to build homes had appeared to be democratic.

Citizens could express their views by filling in a form with 18 options that included two controversial plans to take back Fanling golf course and build a mini-Hong Kong on Lantau Island.

After the six months of consultation led by the Task Force on Land Supply, the 18 options were down to eight, which included massive reclamation in Lantau Island, building homes in part of Fanling golf course and turning 1,000 hectares of farmland in a public-private partnership.

In the end, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor accepted all recommendations and agreed to do everything she could to address the acute shortage of supply.

However, Henry Tang Ying-yen, a former Chief Secretary who lost the battle to become Chief Executive seven years ago and is now a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, was frustrated with the claw-back of land from a golf course. Many of the city’s tycoons also stood up to protect ‘their interests.’ Tang also criticized the big debate, saying it was irresponsible.

“It’s just like going to Cha chaan teng [a tea restaurant] and citizens are asked whether they would prefer tea with or without sugar, milk or lemon,” Tang said in a group interview with Hong Kong media in Beijing on Thursday.

As a Financial Secretary, Tang said none of the four consultations he chaired ended up being “shit.” His criticism was a slap in the face for Carrie Lam, who appointed him to be chairman of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.

But he quickly added that he had high praise for the Lam administration, which was credited with smoothing social harmony, improving the relationship between the government and Legislative Council and addressing social issues.

It was believed that Tang, who has a strong relationship with Hong Kong tycoons, only teed off about the golf course issue as it was unlikely that he or his tycoon peers would file any complaints to the central government, which has over many years ordered the closure of golf course across the country due to environmental and land use reasons.

In fact, it was unwise of Tang to complain about the issue to the Hong Kong media while a large amount of Hong Kong people support the government’s decision to use one-sixth of the golf course to build houses.

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