16 February 2019
Paul Tse (inset)'s proposal to tap the land occupied by the PLA for housing projects is unrealistic. Photo: Google, HKEJ
Paul Tse (inset)'s proposal to tap the land occupied by the PLA for housing projects is unrealistic. Photo: Google, HKEJ

Why Paul Tse’s ideas on PLA land, youth enlistment won’t work

When it comes to being outlandish, peculiar, kooky and oddball, Paul Tse Wai-chun is probably second to none in Hong Kong’s legislature. Over the years Tse has lived up to his reputation as being the most “unpredictable” pro-establishment lawmaker in the Legco.

Recently, he touched a nerve by calling on the government to recover huge tracts of land from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and use it to build new homes for Hong Kong citizens.

Then he went on to propose that young Hongkongers be allowed to join the PLA and receive formal military training so that they can become “real men” and also have their own place to live in, i.e. the barracks.

Tse’s ideas make for a textbook example of how to think outside the box. He caught the public’s attention by proposing the unthinkable and suggesting that the government tap into the 2700 hectares of land that is currently occupied by the PLA.

At first glance, the proposal does appear to kill two birds with one stone: on one hand it can ease our land shortage, and on the other it can promote patriotism among our rebellious teens. So why not go ahead with it?

It is true that the PLA currently occupies a lot of land across Hong Kong, including some in prime locations.

For instance, the military has a lot of land in Kowloon Tong, one of Hong Kong’s most high-end residential areas.

Elsewhere, a gigantic piece of land in Yuen Long that house the Shek Kong airfield and PLA military camps also offers potential for housing projects. Authorities can use the land to build tens of thousands of Public Rental Housing flats.

However, the problem is that the PLA is no ordinary apparatus of Beijing in Hong Kong. It not only fulfills the duty of protecting our city from any attack, foreign or domestic, it is also an important symbol of Beijing’s “sacred sovereignty” over our territory.

Given this, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying as well as other authorities dare not touch on the subject of getting back the PLA land.

In the 80s, during the Sino-British talks over the handover of Hong Kong, London had proposed that all military land formerly occupied by the British army, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy be returned to the government after 1997 for civilian use.

The proposal was rejected outright by Deng Xiaoping, who rebuked London for deliberately stirring up a controversy.

As he put it, there was absolutely no room for bargaining over the stationing of the PLA in Hong Kong after 1997, because it was what sovereignty was all about.

As far as Tse’s proposal to allow young Hong Kong people to join the PLA and be stationed in military bases is concerned, it is unlikely to work either, not least because the overprotective parenting that has been so commonplace in Hong Kong has stripped our teenagers of independence and sense of adventure.

Moreover, since the PLA is infamous for its inhumane discipline practices and harsh training, how can we expect our hedonistic teenagers to ditch their smartphones and commit themselves to an austere life in the military camps where they can’t even log on to Facebook?

Now, with respect to housing, perhaps the only person who can help our young people buy their own homes is US president-elect Donald Trump.

That is because Trump’s economic stimulus program might prompt the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates at a faster pace, thereby driving down property prices across the globe, including ours.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 9

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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A columnist at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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