The Legislative Council on Wednesday began debate on a motion of thanks in relation to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s 2018 Policy Address, with most of the discussion focused, as expected, on Lam’s controversial Lantau reclamation plan.
During her policy speech on Oct. 10, Lam put forward a plan to build artificial islands in the sea to provide land for housing development.
Dubbed “Lantau Tomorrow Vision”, the plan envisages large-scale reclamation in waters off Lantau to create 1,700 hectares of land that can then be used for construction of 260,000 to 400,000 residential units.
The reclamation plan has come in for sharp criticism from many people who argued that the project would amount to waste of government resources and that it would also damage the marine ecology.
During the Legco debate yesterday, Chan Kwok-ki , Director of the Chief Executive’s Office, said reclaiming about 1,700 hectares of land is only a vision rather than a decision.
The official also said that it is difficult for the administration to give an accurate figure as to how much the project will cost, before a feasibility study is carried out.
That said, Chan stressed that the total cost of the mega reclamation project will not reach HK$1 trillion as some people have speculated, and also insisted that the reclamation will not deplete the government’s financial reserves.
However, Chan’s remarks failed to convince pan-democratic lawmakers, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Lawmaker Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the Democratic Party, said the reclamation proposal amounts to a breach of procedural justice since there have been no detailed estimates regarding the cost efficiency and the population growth projection.
Given the lack of information to justify the government’s plan, it is no wonder the public is alarmed, he said.
Joining Wu as one of the seven democrats demanding an amendment of the motion on the issue, Gary Fan Kwok-wai, a lawmaker from the Neo Democrats, questioned whether building artificial islands to accommodate between 700,000 and 1.1 million people is necessary.
That is because Hong Kong’s population growth in the long term will be slowing down, he said, citing a projection which says Hong Kong’s total population will stand just 7.7 million in 2066.
Fan noted that once the Legco approves funding for the project, there will be no turning back, even if the administration would experience cost overruns, which may impact Hong Kong’s finances.
Arguing for the other side, lawmaker and New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who is also an Executive Council member, said reclamation is the best option to increase land supply.
The government must not to give up or quit pursuing its vision just because of the opposition it is facing, Ip said, adding that some people are attempt to spark unnecessary social panic.
Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), said creating land through reclamation is not something that should be a cause of worry or fear.
Some people are intentionally demonizing the plan and opposing it just for opposition’s sake, Lee said.
Lee noted that if the administration of former chief executive Tung Chee-Hwa stuck had stuck to its original goal in 1997 to produce 85,000 flats each year, and proceeded with major reclamation, Hong Kong would be a very different place today, RTHK reported.
In reply to written questions from the Legco, the Development Bureau said the 1,700-hectare reclamation area is only a preliminary proposal and that the government will focus on the studies for developing artificial islands of about 1, 000 hectares near Kau Yi Chau in the first phase.
As for the remaining artificial islands of about 700 hectares near Hei Ling Chau and the waters south of Cheung Chau, the bureau said there is no concrete implementation timetable at the moment.
The findings in the final report to be submitted by the Task Force on Land Supply, expected in December, will be taken into consideration, the bureau added.
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