A defensive Carrie Lam vows to press on with Lantau Tomorrow

The government’s much-criticised scheme to build a massive new business and housing district on 1700ha of reclaimed land in waters off Lantau is certain to go ahead.

In her annual policy address on Wednesday chief executive Carrie Lam vowed to proceed with the plan, currently estimated to cost HK$624 billion, making it the easily most expensive public works project in the city’s history.

The Legco Finance Committee, now dominated by pro-government members, began considering approval for the initial HK$550 million funding on Friday.

But in her speech Lam struck a defensive note, calling on people “to act in an objective and fair manner with the long-term interests of Hong Kong in mind”

This is a departure from her government’s longstanding claim of wide public support for the scheme.

Lam also vowed to “continue to listen to the views of various sectors of the community,” despite having rejected widely-held criticisms about the cost, the necessity and the ecological risks posed by the project.

Source: Sustainable Lantau Office

Even pro-government legislators are querying it, with more than 20 lodging questions about the project.  They are also determined not to appear in a rush to approve the funding application, scmp.com reports.

One pro-Beijing lawmaker, Wong Kwok-kin, a member of Lam’s cabinet, complained about the public backlash they will face for voting for Lantau Tomorrow.

Appearing before Legco on Friday, Development Secretary Michael Wong faced questioning about the cost and viability, the likelihood of delays, and protection of country parks.

“We can’t issue a blank cheque and just allow you to proceed with the study and all the steps subsequent to it. We need to be careful about every penny spent,” Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, of the Business and Professionals Alliance according to scmp.com.

Wong was also asked whether reclamation was a better option than building in country parks, which account for around two-thirds of SAR land.

He said there was little support for building in parks and that it would take additional legislation.

But in a comment that carries some significance for Lantau residents, Wong downplayed the second phase of the scheme, which envisages a 700ha reclamation around Hei Ling Chau, just off Mui Wo.

Without elaborating, he described the initial phase of 1,000 ha reclamation around Kau Yi Chau as the “real” component of the project, and the second 700 ha phase of Hei Ling Chau as “virtual.”

Tom Yam of the Citizens Task Force for Land Resources has accused the government of “magical thinking” in believing the project would help solve short-term housing needs and that it will be ready by 2033.

Yam points out that government’s own forecasts anticipate the city’s population to start falling from a peak of 8.1 million from 2041.

He said the government had already identified 1400 ha in land from brownfield sites in the New Territories, while land developers had warehoused a further 1000ha.

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Girl, 6, in hospital after Mui Wo building fall

A six-year-old girl is in hospital with head injuries after a falling from a first floor window in Mui Wo yesterday morning.

The girl, surnamed Shum, lost her footing while opening a window in her family home at Silver Waves Court at around 9:45am, Apple Daily reported.

She was taken to North Lantau Hospital by ambulance.


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Sheraton Tung Chung opens Dec 1 with special staycation offer

Lantau’s hospitality options will expand further on December 1 with the opening of Sheraton Tung Chung.

The 218-room hotel, built on reclaimed land on the Tung Chung waterfront, is opening after an 12-month delay thanks to last year’s political tumult and the pandemic.

It is opening its arms to local residents.

“We would love to invite our neighbours to be one of the first to come and enjoy our exceptional hospitality,” the company posted on its Facebook page.

Until February 28, it is running a promotion for locals. For HK$1101 and upwards, guests can enjoy a single night in a deluxe room with buffet breakfast for two, free welcome drinks and late check-out till 3 pm, according to HKET.

If you’re wondering if you qualify as a local, according to a Sheraton customer service representative the answer is ‘yes.’

The hotel’s dining options include rooftop grillhouse Sunset Grill, modern Chinese restaurant Yue, all-day dining at Cafe Lantau, and a lobby Lounge for afternoon tea. It also has a pool deck and a gym that faces the sea.

Bookings here.

Photos: Sheraton Tung Chung

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District councillors unanimously oppose increase in closed road quota

Finally, something all of Lantau can agree on: we don’t want more cars.

In a rare show of unity, Islands District Councillors have voted unanimously to reject a proposal to increase the number of temporary vehicle permits for South Lantau.

The Transport Department is planning to double the number of private vehicle permits from 25 to 50 and to trial the introduction of non-Lantau taxis and motorbikes.

It argues that its one-day permit scheme has been a success because of its popularity, with demand far exceeding supply.

In a paper to the council, it said that since the scheme began in February 2016 the total number of vehicle trips to South Lantau via Tung Chung Road had not risen. The government had added alleviated pressure on parking with another 148 spaces in Mui Wo, Pui O and Tai O.

But in a meeting on Monday councillors rounded on department officials, complaining they had wasted their time, inmediahk reports.

South Lantao rural committee chairman Ho Chun-fai said the department didn’t understand that South Lantau Road was below standard and full of dangerous turns.  Tung Chung rural committee chief Wong Chau-ping said it had been just “good luck” that there had been no increase in accidents since the scheme began.

Council chairman Randy Yu reprimanded the department for not understanding Lantau’s road and parking conditions, complaining that they “only talked about numbers.”

He said South Lantau lacked sufficient parking spaces, and there were frequent conflicts between people and vehicles.

“Go to Mui Wo Take a look, go to South Lantau to take a look, and go to Tai O to take a look,” he said.

Yu said his objection wasn’t aimed at outsiders, but it was necessary to deal with the feelings and needs of the residents in the area first.

The council rejected the proposal 15-0.

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Second government department confirms Mui Wo housing plan

A second government department has confirmed that the vacant Mui Wo school site is being considered for housing development.

Planning Department director Raymond Lee says the site has been recommended as “suitable for long-term residential use.”

In a letter to Tom Yam of the Citizens Task Force on Land Resources, Lee said that the site, which has been out of use since 2007, is one of a number of former schools being reviewed.

He said the decision to designate it for potential housing development had been announced in early 2020.

But it would be “premature” to conduct any public consultation as the feasibility study is still underway, he added.

He said the proposed housing scheme, if approved, would not conflict with the Mui Wo Facelift programme, now in its final stage.

The scheme to build public housing on the old school, formally known as the New Territories Heung Yee Kuk (NYTHYK) Southern District Secondary School, was revealed in August by KH Tau, assistant director of the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD).

Tau disclosed that the department had issued an HK$11 million contract to engineering firm Aecom for a feasibility study in April 2019. It is due to report in early 2021.

Tau said that both the NYTHYK site and the adjacent public car park were being evaluated for public housing.

Map: CEDD feasibility study covering school and car park

Yam estimates that the site would sustain a plot size of 7,000 to 8,000 sq m which would support between 700 to 1,500 apartments and a potential population increase of 2,000 to 4,000.

He believes the proposal for high-density housing breaches planning guidelines that stipulate taking into consideration the surrounding land use and planning intentions.

A Planning Department list of school sites under evaluation shows that the city has 234 abandoned schools, of which 181 are recommended to remain as a “government/institution/community (GIC) facility” and 26 are proposed for residential use.

The remaining 27 are former village schools in the New Territories that are “recommended for retaining their uses as village type development, rural use, open space, etc.”

Lee did not explain why the Mui Wo school site has been “earmarked for residential use,” rather than retained as public space like the New Territories village schools.

It is worth noting that the Planning Department is only concerned with the school site itself and not the car park.

The inclusion of Mui Wo’s biggest car park as a potential development site was a decision taken by the CEDD when setting up the feasibility study.

Randy Yu , Islands District Council chairman and south Lantau representative on the council, says he is uncertain of the status of the project.

“The answers I get from different departments are still sketchy. In any case, I was given to understand that the plan is not definite.”

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Volunteers remove 5 tonnes of trash from Shap Long

More than 80 volunteer workers removed at least 5 tonnes of rubbish from remote Shap Long Beach yesterday. The cleanup was organised by Beyond Plastic.

A volunteer, Marcus Turner, said the trash collected included “everything from plastic packaging, polystyrene and microplastics to discarded fishing nets, steel oil drums, large plastic storage drums, abandoned kayaks etc.”

“The volunteers came from all from all over Hong Kong. Many of the volunteers who attend the clean-ups on a regular basis are Filipino and Indonesian helpers who spend their one day off a week doing this,” he said.

“You can see the beach looks a lot cleaner but there are still a lot of microplastics there and more rubbish that will accumulate, so it is a never ending process.”

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Hui Chi-ming misses hearing in Tai Long Wan assault case

The assault case against controversial local businessman Hui Chi-ming has been stood over until January 8 after he was unable to attend a hearing on Friday.

Hui, 56, a former CPPCC delegate and the chairman of HKEx-listed Hong Kong Finance, is accused of assaulting a Tai Long Wan resident, Alexander Robert Medd, in March 29.

Hui’s barrister told the West Kowloon Court that his client had been unable to return from mainland China due to the pandemic travel restrictions. Additionally, his mother had died the day prior to the hearing.

The court approved Hui’s application to defer the case until January 8 to allow him to take care of funeral arrangements.

Hui Chi-ming (left) with former Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa

Hui and another man, Chan Ming-leung, 56, first appeared in court over the charges on August 28. They were released bail of HK$1,000 each.

Chan has been charged with unlawfully and maliciously wounding Medd in the same incident.

Hui has bought half a dozen properties and carried out a series of unauthorized building works in the remote Lantau village in the last three years.

Photo (top): A Lands Department signs censures Hui’s unauthorized building works

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Tong Fuk prison guards arrested for smuggling porn, phones

Two guards at the Tong Fuk Correctional Institution have been arrested for allegedly smuggling contraband.

The two illegally brought into the prison mobile phones, cigarettes and USB sticks containing pornographic photos and videos, Oriental Daily reports.

ICAC and the Correctional Services Department carried out a joint investigation into the case and arrested the pair on October 23.

In another incident at the medium-security jail last week, a man imprisoned for his role in the 2016 Mongkok riot was attacked in a prison workshop.

The 34-year-old man victim, Lo Kinman, was taken to the hospital for assessment. He had been sentenced to seven-year term two years ago for rioting – one of the longest sentences handed out to demonstrators in Hong Kong’s spate of protests over the last six years.

The alleged assailant was a 32-year-old Vietnamese national serving time for immigration offences.

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THIS WEEKEND: Beach Barre & Shap Long cleanup

This weekend it’s Beach Barre at Treasure Island – all proceeds to Tails – and a beach cleanup at Shap Long. Plus, the UTML is still running.


November 14: Beach Barre. 60-minute class with Noelle from Yatta Barre. $200. Proceeds to Tails Lantau. Sessions at 10am & 4pm. Treasure Island, Pui O Beach. Details


November 14: Help remove aggressive plants from Ngong Ping. WhatsApp 81036312. 4pm


November 15: Shap Long Beach Cleanup with Beyond Plastic Team. To help out: WhatsApp +852 9514 9944. Details.

Photo: Beyond Plastic


November 1-30:  UTML (Ur Trail du Mont Lantau). Hike, walk or run Lantau trails to support Lantau conservation and oppose the Lantau Tomorrow reclamation. Details


December 12-13: Treasure Island Christmas Market. 11am-5pm, Pui O Beach. Details

December 12: Treasure Island Group Third Annual Charity Ball.  6pm, Treasure Island, Pui O Beach. 6pm. $580 per person $5800 per table. Details

December 13: Annual South Lantau Children’s Christmas Party 2020. $100 per child (max $200 per family) to cover costs. Treasure Island, Pui O Beach. From 1pm. RSVP before November 30 to LantauChristmas@gmail.com or WhatsApp 9530 7569.