(Adds details on China Liaison Office)
HONG KONG, March 28 (Reuters) - Hong Kong-leader elect
Carrie Lam said on Tuesday she was "very determined" to tackle
the high cost of housing in the densely populated city, among
the top concerns of foreign business people working there.
Lam, the Chinese-controlled financial hub's former chief
secretary, was chosen on Sunday by a 1,200-person committee to
lead the city, pledging in her victory speech to unite political
divisions, illustrated by huge pro-democracy protests in 2014,
that have hindered policy-making and legislative work.
Speaking at a Credit Suisse investment conference in Hong
Kong, Beijing-backed Lam also said the former British colony
faced tough competition from the region and also from mainland
Chinese cities which are "becoming very powerful".
The cost of housing is one of Hong Kong's biggest social
issues and making homes more affordable was among outgoing
leader Leung Chun-ying's top priorities, something he failed to
Lam said land and labour were two "major bottlenecks" for
Hong Kong's development.
"On the land issue, I am very determined to tackle that in
the next term of government in a big way," she told an audience
of 200 financial and business professionals.
"It's not just looking at the annual land sale programme but
really, the long-term supply of land, or better still, a land
bank for Hong Kong."
Lam also pledged during her campaign to tackle the problem
by increasing land supply.
Lam's call to mend social divisions suffered a setback a day
after she was elected when police on Monday charged nine
organisers of the 2014 demonstrations, provoking anger among
In perhaps her strongest admission to date on China's
perceived behind-the-scenes interference in Hong Kong politics,
she told a radio programme she knew the Central Liaison Office,
China's top representative office in Hong Kong, had been
involved in lobbying legislators in the past.
"We do not need our friends at the Central Liaison Office to
worry," she told reporters after the programme, saying she
wouldn't welcome its involvement in Hong Kong affairs under her
Since the 2014 protests, there have also been some calls for
independence in the city which operates under a "one country,
two systems" formula, allowing it freedoms not enjoyed on the
Communist Party-ruled mainland.
Lam said if the city started to argue about whether it
should become independent, then "we have no common basis to
start this common journey to give Hong Kong a better future".
The next few months will be critical for Leung and Lam, with
Chinese President Xi Jinping expected to pay a visit on July 1
to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from
British rule, with large protests expected.
The city also had a lot of catching up to do in terms of
comprehensive double tax agreements, Lam said. In her victory
speech on Sunday, Lam pledged to follow through on her promise
to introduce a two-tier profits tax.
(Reporting by Venus Wu; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing
by Nick Macfie)