The government is studying the feasibility of developing underground space at Kowloon Park in Tsim Sha Tsui, Victoria Park in Causeway Bay and Southorn Playground in Wan Chai.
It says the aim is to connect districts and bring more convenience to pedestrians.
Everybody knows, however, the government’s true intention is to provide more space for developers to turn into giant underground malls and put them out to tender to generate revenue.
As such, the underground space development initiative has met with fierce opposition from residents and concern groups in the affected districts because they fear it could compromise the environment of those parks and deprive the public of their living space for leisure and recreation.
Civic groups such as the Alliance For a Beautiful Hong Kong and HaHa Hawan (Editor’s note: Wan Chai used to be known as Hawan [下環] during the early days of British rule) have called on residents to stage protests against the plan.
As a district councilor of Wan Chai, I feel compelled to point out that the administration has done a rather poor job as far as consultations with the District Council and the public are concerned.
Residents were unable to voice their views about the project nor were members of the District Council able to scrutinize the proposal due to incomplete and inadequate information provided by the government and insufficient time to go through all the documents.
In the face of the poorly organized consultation, Wan Chai residents and fellow district councilors felt their opinions had not been respected by the government, giving rise to the impression that the administration is pursuing the project behind closed doors regardless of public opposition.
During a public consultation session on the plan for Southorn Playground, for example, officials only gave a very one-sided introduction to the project, emphasizing the benefits while skirting the disadvantages.
In particular, the government has failed to address public concerns that once developed, the underground space in Wan Chai may end up being just another Link REIT mall where small neighborhood stores are forced out of business by big retail and restaurant chains.
If anything, such insincere and one-sided consultation sessions only serve to fuel doubts and suspicions among the public.
That said, I strongly urge the government to re-open dialogue with local residents and concern groups in Wan Chai over the Southorn Playground underground space development project and sincerely listen to public views.
Times have changed, and the people have no more tolerance for an autocratic style of governance.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 8
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
– Contact us at [email protected]