(Adds comment, detail on policies)
By Grace Li and Yimou Lee
HONG KONG Jan 15 Hong Kong leader Leung
Chun-ying on Wednesday pledged to spend about HK$3 billlion
($387 million) a year to help tackle poverty in a policy speech
dominated by bread-and-butter issues that some saw as an attempt
to dodge discussion of politics.
Leung, who came to power on a platform of making housing
more affordable, has had a rocky 18 months at the helm with
broad dissatisfaction over sky-high property prices and the slow
pace of democratic reform in the city.
The government said it aimed to help more than 200,000
low-income families in the Asian financial centre where more
than 1.3 million people, or 19.6 percent of the population,
lived below the poverty line in 2012.
"Our poverty alleviation policy is to encourage young people
and adults to become self-reliant through employment, while
putting in place a reasonable and sustainable social security
and welfare system to help those who cannot provide for
themselves," Leung said.
He offered nothing to opposition forces pushing for
universal suffrage, something China has promised by 2017 and an
issue that brought thousands of demonstrators onto the streets
this month to push for full democracy.
Beijing had promised direct elections in the former British
colony as the goal for 2017, but the devil is in the detail of
rules governing who can run.
"This is a deliberate strategy by the Hong Kong government
to win the hearts and minds of the people on livelihood issues
while simultaneously postponing the discussion on political
reform," said political analyst Sonny Lo.
"The government, by using the policy address to focus on
livelihood issues, can consolidate its legitimacy and
One of the city's more vocal pro-democracy lawmakers, Leung
Kwok-hung - also known as Long Hair - was ordered to leave the
city's legislative assembly, where the speech was delivered,
after he accused the government of "using a penny to help the
Another pro-democracy lawmaker threw a stuffed toy wolf at
Leung, who has been called "wolf" for his perceived abrasive
style and close ties to the Communist Party.
The government said it would increase the maximum number of
dwellings that can be built on a piece of land by 20 percent
for some densely populated areas, which analysts said would
increase short-term supply but create more cramped conditions.
"It will help the government to achieve its short-term
housing supply targets," said Wong Leung Sing, research director
at Centaline Property Agency. "But the sequels are lower living
quality and even more contradictions in urban planning."
Hong Kong's property prices have seen the spread of cage
homes, wire-mesh compartments stacked on top of each other, and
cubicle apartments as residents are forced out of the market.
Leung said the government would raise the target for the
completion of private units each year over the next five years
by 40 percent, to 13,600 from an average of 9,680 over the past
five years. He raised the forecast for public housing supply
over the next 10 years by 36 percent.
To meet the public housing supply target, the government
aims to provide an average of about 20,000 public rental housing
units and about 8,000 cheaper government units for sale a year.
Leung announced no significant steps to reduce pollution,
with just a few measures including lowering the sulphur content
of local marine diesel from 0.5 percent to 0.05 percent, and
ocean-going vessels at berth in Hong Kong being required to
switch to low sulphur diesel from 2015.
The government also announced steps to boost education
including subsidies for poor students, exchange programmes and
raising the number of slots for higher education.
($1 = 7.7541 Hong Kong dollars)
(Additional reporting by Donny Kwok, Irene Jay Liu and Alice
Woodhouse,; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Robert Birsel)