See More on Facebook

Economics, Politics

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam unveils measures to ease housing crunch

Lam was forced to deliver speech via video after protests.

Written by

Updated: October 17, 2019

Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced measures aimed at easing a housing shortage on Wednesday (Oct 16) as she battles to restore confidence in her administration and address widespread discontent after four months of mostly violent anti-government protests.

Mrs Lam was forced to deliver her speech via video after her annual policy address in the Legislative Council was aborted when some lawmakers repeatedly jeered and shouted at her as she began speaking. After aborting her speech in the chamber twice, Mrs Lam left the podium.

When the speech resumed, in video form, Mrs Lam started by condemning the violence that has escalated in the city the past four months, urging residents to protect Hong Kong’s core values of rule of law and principles of inclusiveness, integration and mutual respect.

Given that the government in recent months had announced a series of measures in different sectors including ways to support enterprises, safeguard jobs, enhance child care services and support sports development, Mrs Lam zoomed in on four aspects in her speech – housing, land supply, improving people’s livelihood and economic development.

Some short- and medium-term measures to tackle the housing crisis include increasing the funding for transitional housing from the promised HK$2 billion (S$350 million) to HK$5 billion, providing 10,000 transitional housing units in the next three years and offering relief for low-income households.

The Hong Kong Housing Authority (HKHA) will also accelerate the sale of unsold flats, even as it explores the feasibility of redeveloping its factory estates into public flats.

Meanwhile, the government will put up a private residential site in Anderson Road for sale in the first quarter of 2020, where the developer will be required to offer about 1,000 units at below-market prices to eligible first-time home buyers.

First-time home buyers will also soon be able to take out loans of up to 90 per cent for all properties worth HK$8 million or less, up from the current ceiling of HK$4 million.

Buyers can borrow 80 per cent of the property value for flats worth up to HK$10 million, up from the current HK$6 million.

As for increasing land supply, the government will prioritise the study of 160ha of brownfield sites for development purposes and invoke the Lands Resumption Ordinance – a move Mrs Lam described as “a breakthrough in thinking”.

She said the government will push on with controversial plans to build a series of artificial islands east of Lantau to create 1,000ha of land, even though “some people in the community have concerns”.

Among other measures unveiled include a 20-month pilot scheme to debut early next year aimed at providing early intervention to children who exhibit signs of special needs, grants for parents of schoolgoing children, and a proposal to seek the support of mainland authorities to possibly offer tax concessions to local enterprises wishing to shift from exports to domestic sales.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s Associate Professor Sing Ming, however, said the measures unveiled are not quick enough to dramatically alleviate the current tension and reduce the protests “because the core demands among the protesters and the general public are not related to housing”.

“Rather, they are related to the rule of law, to police brutality and full democracy,” he said. “The measures of today are far from adequate to reduce the fervour of the ongoing protests against the government,” he added.

In wrapping up her hour-long speech, Mrs Lam called on Hong Kongers to put aside differences and “stop attacking each other” in order to sail through adversities.

“Fellow citizens, so long as Hong Kong remains impeded by unresolved disputes, ongoing violence, confrontation and discord, our city cannot embark on the road to reconciliation and people will lose faith in the future.”

“We must reverse the prevalent pessimistic sentiments and stop the disorderly behaviour,” the leader said.

She added that while Hong Kong now faces “the most formidable challenge since our return to the Motherland”, she believes efforts made to lay the solid foundation of Hong Kong would not be wasted.

“So long as we have unwavering confidence, adhere to the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, stop violence in accordance with the law and restore social order as early as possible, Hong Kong will soon be able to emerge from the storm and embrace the rainbow.”

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Economics, Politics

Local tourism hit hard by plunge in S. Korean visitors

South Korea and Japan are embroiled in a trade standoff which has extended to other realms of diplomacy. The decline in South Korean visitors to Japan continues unabated, spurred by the deterioration in bilateral relations. The number of South Koreans who visited in October fell 65 percent from a year earlier to a near-record low, and the number of foreign visitors to Japan overall also declined. This has dealt a significant blow to the aviation and tourism industries of both Japan and South Korea, and there are calls for Japan to increase the number of visitors from a wide range of regions to reduce its dependence on neighboring countries, which is greatly affected by political risks. Zero regular flights The international terminal at Oita Airport in Kunisaki, Oita Prefecture, was crowded with South Korean passengers until this summer. On Tuesday, however,

By The Japan News
November 22, 2019

Economics, Politics

Nepal’s luxury hotels are growing but the rooms are empty

There are 15 five-star hotels in the country, and a dozen more are being planned even as existing hotels continue to report a significant drop in profit. High-end hotels might be proliferating across the country but there aren’t enough guests to fill them up, according to the financial reports of Nepal’s three key five-star institutions. The first quarter financial reports from Taragaon Regency Hotels, Soaltee Hotel and Oriental Hotels, all of which are listed on the Nepal Stock Exchange, showed that profits have taken a nosedive after posting record profits last fiscal year. The first quarter of the fiscal year runs from mid-July to the end of September. The three hotel groups say that unhealthy competition, like price undercutting, a demand-and-supply gap, and a growing number of backpackers are behind the sharp fall in earnings. According to its report, Oriental Hotels, which operates Radi

By The Kathmandu Post
November 21, 2019

Economics, Politics

Dr M: Cabinet reshuffle, possibly before Apec

Malaysia’s ruling party suffered heavily in a recent bi-election. A Cabinet reshuffle must take place, said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. The Prime Minister said that there will be some ministers who will be dropped but added that it will not be today or tomorrow. “Very likely before Malaysia hosts the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit next year,” said Dr Mahathir. Admitting that reshuffling would not be a solution to recover the waning popularity of Pakatan Harapan ruling coalition, as reflected in the recent Tanjung Piai by-election defeat, Dr Mahathir said it has to be done anyway. Pakatan received its worst by-election defeat in Tanjung Piai when its Bersatu candidate lost by more than 15,000 votes to MCA of Barisan Nasional on Nov 16. He said that the reshuffle should not be “radical” so as to affect the preparations of Malaysia to host Ap

By The Star
November 21, 2019

Economics, Politics

Court turns thumbs down on Thanathorn

The opposition leader loses his MP status. The Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday (November 20) that Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party, lost his status as a member of Parliament on May 23, having registered to run in the March election while still holding shares in V Luck Media, in violation of the law. The court cited Articles 98 and 42 of the 2017 Constitution and the Organic Act on Election to the House of Representatives in characterising Thanathorn as prohibited from being elected as an MP. The Election Commission brought the matter to court, accusing him of still holding 675,000 shares in his family-owned media company when he registered his candidacy in the general election. Thanathorn failed to prove that he had transferred all shares to his mother, Somporn Juangroongruangkit, before registering.

By The Nation (Thailand)
November 21, 2019

Economics, Politics

Trade disputes between Korea and Japan show no sign of abating

President Moon Jae-in blames Japan’s export controls for GSOMIA withdrawal. Escalating trade tension between South Korea and Japan shows no sign of abating as two rounds of bilateral talks to resolve disputes triggered by Japan’s export curbs could not reach common ground. On Tuesday, the two neighboring nations held the second round of talks at the World Trade Organization in Geneva after failing to reach a consensus at the first consultations on Oct. 11. “During two rounds of six-hour intensive consultations, the two nations became more aware of each other’s measures and positions in the process. But we don’t think the two sides have changed their positions,” Chung Hae-kwan, director general in charge of legal affairs at the Trade Ministry, told reporters at a press briefing in Geneva following a meeting with his Japanese counterparts on Tuesday. “We pointed out that Japan’s exp

By The Korea Herald
November 21, 2019

Economics, Politics

Moon says volunteer military system needs time

The president says South Korea will transition to a volunteer army. South Korea needs to move to a volunteer military system, but the switch from the current conscription system will need time and preparation, President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday. “(A volunteer system) is something our society must move toward. But at present, the conditions are not right to introduce a volunteer system, (the change) needs to be planned in the mid- to long-term,” Moon said, speaking in a live televised question-and-answer session with 300 selected civilians. Moon said that measures such as increasing the number of professional soldiers and improving military har

By The Korea Herald
November 20, 2019