Real Estate Developers Resist Government-Backed Project in Hong Kong

Signs show Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's influence is fading
By Li Zhen, Epoch Times
September 16, 2015 Updated: September 16, 2015

HONG KONG—The Hong Kong government recently gave its stamp of approval to a development project that had very little public support, upsetting many real estate companies who have now formed an alliance to oppose the plan.

Last November, New World Development Company Limited submitted a proposal to optimize the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. The government started a public consultation in July this year, but only 9 out of the 390 submissions were in favor of the proposal.

However, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) of the Hong Kong government announced unexpectedly last month that the proposal was consistent with the government’s strategy and the public interest. The LCSD gave the expansion plan for Tsim Sha Tsui’s Avenue of Stars to New World Development.

The announcement triggered a great outcry. The LCSD has been criticized for having “black box operations” and is suspected of having been bribed.

Soon afterward, the LCSD announced that the plan was postponed, and they launched another public consultation.

Businesses Resist

Hammer Out talk show host Li Wei-ling said during her Sept. 9 live program that the Avenue of Stars issue has caused a great sensation in the real estate sector.

The project involves the entire re-planning of eastern Tsim Sha Tsui and will affect a wide range of businesses, including Sino Group, Kerry Properties Limited, Sun Hung Kai Properties, ChinaChem, and Regal Hotel.

These businesses are concerned that the expansion plans, which include up to eight new buildings in the Avenue of Stars, will seriously affect other buildings’ seaside landscape.

Li said the expansion plan will be led entirely by New World Development, which will effectively make the East Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront become the private garden of New World Development.

This consortium of businesses has reportedly established a large top legal team, including Benjamin Yu and other senior lawyers, to seek judicial intervention.

Li said they are unhappy with the incident because it does not follow fair free market principles, and Sino Group and Kerry Properties Limited are particularly angry. Sino Group has several properties at East Tsim Sha Tsui, and Kerry Properties Limited owns the Kowloon Shangri-La hotel.

“This time Leung Chun-ying is obviously in favor of New World,” Li said in the program. “Other property developers worried that if they did not speak out, more unruly things would happen in the future, and their business interests would be damaged even more.”

Leung and Jiang Losing Power

Forming an alliance to contend with the LCSD was an unusual move for the consortium. Current affairs commentator Lai Chak Fun believes that concern over their own interests is one motivation, but it also shows that the power of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s team is fading.

Recently, the pro-establishment camp has also showed multiple signs of not favoring Leung. Former National People’s Congress (NPC) Hong Kong delegate Ng Hong-mun bluntly said that Leung’s years in office were stormy years.

Ng added that the promising next chief executive candidates would be Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Leung is an underground Chinese Communist Party (CCP) member in Hong Kong and was selected as chief executive by the faction of former CCP leader Jiang Zemin. After taking office, Leung caused cries of discontent all around Hong Kong by implementing Jiang faction policies such as the promotion in schools of the mainland curriculum, which Hongkongers view as brainwashing, and the persecution of Falun Gong.

Now that the Jiang faction is losing power, there has been a domino effect on Hong Kong millionaires, who are choosing to break away from the Jiang faction.

Over the past 20 years, the Jiang faction has fostered underground forces in Hong Kong and arranged them in all walks of life, forming a huge web of interest groups.

Many Hong Kong tycoons have very close connections with Jiang in order to do business in mainland China. They have stood up for the CCP at many critical moments and chosen to remain silent on human rights issues such as the persecution of Falun Gong.

These days, the fight between the Jiang faction and the faction of Jiang’s rival, current CCP leader Xi Jinping, is becoming intense and white-hot.

One after another, senior officials in the Jiang faction, such as Zhou Yongkang, have been sacked. Real estate businesses that are closely related to the Jiang faction have been undergoing a purge since last year.

More than 100,000 people have used their real names to openly lodge legal cases in China’s highest court seeking to bring Jiang to justice for his human rights abuses.

Translated by Susan Wang. Written in English by Sally Appert.