Last Sunday, nearly 10,000 people took to the streets to protest the “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” project put forward by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in her Policy Address.
Apart from the expected astronomical cost, a reason why the plan is causing much heartburn in society is the scale of the planned land reclamation in waters off Lantau.
Under Lam’s proposal, the government will create a total of 1,700 hectares of new land through reclamation, 70 percent more than the 1,000 hectares under the proposed East Lantau Metropolis put forward by the Task Force on Land Supply in its public consultation documents.
It is believed that 1,700 hectares is deemed to be the maximum amount of land that can be created in east Lantau, based on an internal technical assessment carried out by the administration.
The “over-the-top” option was said to have been put forward by the chief executive in her annual policy speech as she wanted to play devil’s advocate and facilitate further discussion in society on reclamation needs.
Government sources say the “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” project, like its title suggests, is only a “vision” rolled out by the chief executive rather than an immutable decision.
Since it is far from being a done deal, everything about the proposal is up for open-ended discussion in the coming days, according to the sources.
In the end, the administration will need to exchange views with the public and the Legislative Council as to whether or not the project would fly, and if yes, how many hectares of land would actually be reclaimed.
Besides, the sources say, since the Lantau project will span several decades, there is definitely room for adjustment in the long run, and the government would make the most cost-effective decision after seeking and taking into consideration the opinions of experts.
As to whether the turnout at Sunday’s mass protest exceeded the authorities’ initial expectations, a source stressed that there was no such estimate in advance from the authorities.
However, the degree of public sentiment of discontent toward the “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” was larger than expected, government sources said.
A reason why so many citizens are put off by the proposal, the sources believe, could be the fact that large infrastructure projects were almost routinely plagued by cost overruns in recent years.
The plan is drawing opposition also because of worries that it will cater to new immigrants from the mainland, who Hongkongers fear will settle down in the city and compete for resources with locals.
People believe the new homes built on man-made islands would predominantly benefit new immigrants from mainland China.
Government sources, however, say that new immigrants from the mainland who wish to apply for public rental housing units will have to satisfy the requirement of living in Hong Kong for a certain number of years.
Also, they point out that the people who are currently receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance in the city are, for the most part, locals and not new immigrants from the mainland.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 16
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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