Though the report released by the Task Force on Land Supply has elicited mixed reactions from the public, what most people would agree is that the scale of the five-month long public engagement exercise carried out by the panel has been almost unparalleled in recent years.
As such, the Hong Kong Vision Project (HKV), which has been initiated by Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, vice chairman of the Hong Kong Policy Research Institute (HKPRI) and former Legislative Council president, is now studying the model of consultation adopted by the land supply panel, in the hope that the HKV can take reference from the model to draw some useful insights into public consultation exercises that are carried out in the days ahead.
Numbers don’t lie. During the five-month consultation period, a number of district public forums were held by the task force, and a total of 3,011 Hong Kong citizens aged 18 or above were interviewed over the phone in a survey commissioned by the task force and conducted by the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Also, as many as 60,000 submissions from members of the public had been collected.
These numbers, together with the wide public participation, marked a rare event among the various public engagement exercises launched by the government in recent years.
As Dr. Kay Lam Chi-yan, a researcher with the HKPRI, has pointed out, compared to other public consultation exercises in the past, the “big debate” on land supply carried out by the task force last year has proven both huge and rare in terms of the scope and scale, which makes it a suitable example for case study.
Lam said the HKV would mainly analyze the “big debate” from two perspectives: its process and findings, and would interview members of the task force and groups that took part in the public consultation last year.
The HKV’s “study into the Task Force’s study” is expected to be completed by February or March this year.
About two years ago, the HKV had, as a matter of fact, published a report on how the government can enhance public participation in the formulation of public policies, proposing ideas such as setting up a “Public Engagement Development Commission” and creating a webpage that would contain information on “public engagement in progress”.
Yet, two years later, it appears the government has accepted none of the recommendations put forward by the HKV report.
Given such indifference, even if the HKV puts in fresh suggestions now on ways to improve public participation in discussions on key policy issues, all it can do is play a passive role.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 3
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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