Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) yesterday said the territory was at a new starting point for development under the National Security Law imposed last year, and that her priority would be to focus on tackling a long-standing housing shortage.
Hong Kong and Beijing authorities have long blamed unaffordable housing in the former British colony for deep-rooted social problems that they say helped fuel pro-democracy protests in 2019.
“Fortunately, the implementation of the National Security Law and the improvement to our electoral system have restored safety and stability in society. Hong Kong is now ready again for a new start for economic development,” Lam said in her annual policy address.
Beijing imposed the law on Hong Kong in June last year. It punishes what authorities broadly define as secession, sedition and collusion with foreign forces with sentences of up to life in prison.
Critics say it is being used to crush freedoms promised under the “one country, two systems” formula agreed upon when the territory was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Beijing and the Hong Kong government say the law is needed to safeguard prosperity and stability, and guard against outside interference.
Lam’s focus in her speech was on ensuring affordable housing to the territory’s 7.5 million people.
“Providing decent accommodation for all is the primary goal of my housing policy. Noting the public concern on the matter, I reviewed the progress and set out my vision on the issue,” she said.
Private home prices hit a record high in July, buoyed by limited housing supply and large flows of capital from Chinese buyers.
Making housing more affordable has been a priority for all of Hong Kong’s leaders since 1997, although the prospect of owning a home is still a distant dream for many.
Even residents with good jobs and salaries have struggled to get on the property ladder.
Last month, Reuters reported that Beijing had in a series of meetings this year given a new mandate to the territory’s powerful tycoons, saying they should pour resources and influence into helping solve the housing shortage.
The average waiting time for public housing in Hong Kong has climbed steadily and now stands at more than 5.5 years.
Compounding the problem, home prices in former farming areas about an hour’s commute from the heart of the financial center have also surged, buoyed in part by Chinese parents eager to educate their children in the territory.
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