Intellasia East Asia News – HK chief executive candidate John Lee unveils priorities, from public housing to helping youth break out of poverty

Almost three weeks after launching his leadership bid, Hong Kong chief executive candidate John Lee Ka-chiu unveiled his manifesto on Friday.

His blueprint provided a glimpse of the former policeman and security chief’s plans to steer the city over the next five years, given his expected victory as the sole candidate and having secured Beijing’s blessings.

Here are six takeaways:

1. Two new bodies on public housing, land

To deal with the city’s pressing housing shortage, Lee will have a Task Force on Public Housing Projects and a Steering Committee on Land and Housing Supply, each headed by a secretary-level official.

The first will propose, within the first 100 days of the new administration, ways to speed up the design and construction of public housing. There are no hard numbers, but Lee’s goal is to increase the overall supply over the next five years.

The task force will also suggest how to carry out a new public housing allocation scheme Lee floated, which he said could shorten the time each housing project would become available by a year.

It will involve allowing public housing applicants to move into their flats earlier, even before supporting facilities and infrastructure are completed, if they are keen to do so.

Lee said the steering committee will coordinate all policy bureaus and departments, from transport and environment to social welfare and land administration, to come up with policies to unlock the potential of private land.

2. New mobilisation protocol for emergencies

As Hong Kong’s former No. 2 official, Lee liaised with mainland Chinese officials to combat the city’s devastating fifth wave of Covid-19 infections. He has proposed setting up a new mobilisation protocol for dealing with emergencies that arise.

It will require each government department to send a certain number of officers to a cross-department emergency response unit. In a serious emergency, it will have a command centre led by a senior official.

To strengthen community networks, Lee said he would unite all sectors by setting up community services and care groups in all 18 districts to ensure enough manpower for emergencies.

3. Solving intergenerational poverty

Lee pledged to have a pilot scheme to tackle intergenerational poverty and come up with ways to address the social issue.

Over the next two to three years, the scheme will focus on 1,000 junior secondary students living in subdivided flats the city’s tiniest housing for its poorest residents and draw on non-governmental organisations and private corporations for help.

It will aim to come up with training and mentorship schemes to boost young people’s confidence and help them achieve their career goals.

Lee said the move was inspired by a recent visit to a single-parent family during his campaign.

4. Brain drain? Hong Kong’s still attractive

Lee downplayed concerns about Hongkongers leaving, saying during his question and answer session that the city had experienced mobility of people throughout its history. He said the pandemic and the strict measures imposed by the government were among the reasons people had been thinking of moving.

But he maintained that the city still had unique advantages to attract talent, including its access to the mainland market and its involvement in the Greater Bay Area, Beijing’s massive innovation hub linking Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province.

“In the long term, it is how we make people realise the attractiveness and competitiveness and the beauty of Hong Kong as a place where they can live, come to and develop,” he said.

“We have an advantage in language, we are an inclusive society and it is a lively city. There are a lot of strengths to attract people. And I think people will follow the trend on where they can make money,” he said.

5. Covid’s not forever

Lee promised a new Covid-19 strategy to allow lower-risk businesses “to be treated separately from those which may have higher risks”. He also struck a positive note when asked if Hong Kong might be hurt by its ongoing restrictive pandemic policies.

“Covid is not going to live with us forever,” he said. “At some stage, it will be under control. It is important that we do a balancing act.

“On the one hand, we will keep the disease under control but, at the same time, we will allow business to continue as much as possible. We can run Hong Kong with hope and opportunities which will definitely attract people to come to Hong Kong.”

Lee stopped short of spelling out when Hong Kong would reopen its borders, with mainland China or the rest of the world.

6. What was left unsaid?

Lee said little about how he planned to reconcile Hong Kong society, left fractured after months of social unrest in 2019. As security minister at the time, he was criticised for his tough approach in dealing with anti-government protesters.

There has been talk over the past week that Lee might create two new deputy secretary posts. Lee said nothing about this on Friday.

He also did not confirm if he intended to bring back an official think tank to gauge public sentiment, an issue covered extensively by the media recently.


Category: Hong Kong

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