HK chief moves to curb Chinese property investors

By Joyce Woo, AFP

HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s leader outlined new steps Wednesday to cool the world’s hottest property market, including a halt to automatic residency for rich buyers, in the face of simmering public anger. The residency measure will particularly hit wealthy investors from mainland China, whose buying spree in high-end apartments has done much to stoke fears of a new bubble in the Hong Kong economy. Chief Executive Donald Tsang said he was responding to public anxiety about a residential housing shortage and rocketing prices, during a rowdy legislative assembly session during which one lawmaker stormed out of the chamber. Some 200 protestors shouted slogans and waved placards outside the Legislative Council, demanding more public housing and decrying the control of private property developers over the market in land-starved Hong Kong. Before storming out, radical lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung threw a polystyrene clock at Tsang, arguing that time was running out for elderly people forced to live on meager savings in the absence of state pensions. Noting that property prices have risen 20 percent in the past year, Tsang said in his annual policy address: “Housing is currently the greatest concern of our people. “Over the past few years, private housing supply has been relatively low. We should address the fundamentals by increasing land supply in response to market demand.” Tsang announced plans to build residential property on the city’s old airport, Kai Tak, which was closed down in 1998. The prime harbor site remains undeveloped as the government cleans up heavy aviation pollution. He also said the government would consult the public on proposals to reclaim land elsewhere than the crowded Victoria Harbour, which has steadily diminished down the years due to property development, angering environmentalists. Tsang said the government would adopt a temporary amendment to Hong Kong’s Capital Investment Scheme, preventing investors from gaining residency in the territory through property purchases from Oct. 14.