Hong Kong leader-elect says she's determined to tackle high cost of housing

Venus Wu

(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

achieve.

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

protesters.

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

administration.

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)