Beijing’s top representative in Hong Kong stressed the need to solve the city’s housing problems on Thursday as he kicked off a week-long community outreach drive by his office to “listen directly to the grass roots” on the eve of the country’s National Day.
Luo Huining, director of Beijing’s liaison office in the city, visited at least five places on the first day of the effort, meeting a range of people such as young tech entrepreneurs, elderly residents seeking free medical help, fishermen plying their boats and “cage home” tenants in Mong Kok to see their living conditions.
The outreach will end just a day before Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor delivers her policy address – the final one of her current term – that is expected to address deep-seated issues facing the city, including housing and the income divide.
According to a report posted on Thursday night on its website, the office said it would send officials to different communities in the coming week, building on the first day’s efforts.
Luo said his “heart sank” after seeing the conditions of the “cage home” where 11 people had less than 20 sq ft of space each. The need to ramp up efforts to ease the housing shortage was not only a concern of Beijing but also an expectation of the public, he said.
While the problem involved specific issues such as land, planning and investment, the obstacles could be resolved step by step as long as the development was “people-oriented”, Luo suggested.
“We know that the [local] government is actively planning, and we hope that the whole society will work together,” he said.
Hong Kong’s development would only be considered good when the public felt their lives had improved, he added.
“I have been in Hong Kong for more than a year and a half. I have seen subdivided homes, visited housing estates, small businesses and small shops, and today, got on a fishing boat,” he said after chatting with fishermen living aboard their vessels at Aberdeen typhoon shelter. “It was very rewarding and I will go to more such communities in the future.”
At the Sham Shui Po Kaifong Welfare Association Hall, where elderly people were lined up for free medical services, one person told Luo the waiting time in public hospitals was too long.
Luo said that while the overall level of health care in Hong Kong was relatively good, existing medical resources could not meet the needs of the public.
He also visited a small shop in Mong Kok to learn how business was during the coronavirus pandemic and went to Cyberport in Pok Fu Lam, where he was briefed by IT companies on their development.
The tour marked the third time Luo or his office representatives had paid visits to the underprivileged since October last year. On July 1, when the city celebrated the 24th anniversary of its return to Chinese sovereignty and the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party, his deputies launched a campaign to visit 1,500 poorer households and distribute gifts.
Luo similarly toured the city last National Day, which coincided with the Mid-Autumn Festival, and gave away mooncakes and items for personal hygiene to less well-off residents. In February, he visited Lei Yue Mun Park and Holiday Village to inspect the newly developed temporary quarantine facilities, built by Hong Kong-based China State Construction International Holdings.
The office director is not the only Beijing official to recently stress the need to tackle the housing shortage. In July, Xia Baolong, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, shared his vision of a city free of cramped living spaces by 2049, the centenary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.