Fung Siu Yin is the challenger in Sunday’s district council poll and a part of a new face in local politics.
Standing for the Lantau seat, she is pro-democratic, green and a member of a new group called Islands Connect, which is ensuring that for the first time democrats contest seats in all four islands in the district.
Fung, 33, has lived in Tung Chung for 20 years. She has worked as a Legco research assistant for the past eight years, and is currently on Eddie Chu Hoi-dick’s staff.
She opposes Lantau Tomorrow Vision, which she says has had scant scrutiny from the council. If elected she would call public hearings across Lantau to debate the project.
She has also done a good deal of work on public transport issues, finding that South Lantau residents object to the Sunday fare hikes and want to see more frequent services of both bus and ferry.
Having spent her early career working on senior and social welfare issues, she also advocates expanding community centres and medical services for the elderly and wants to set aside land for a retiree-run community farm.
The vacant Mui Wo high school, the wetlands and the Mui Wo improvement works are also high on her agenda.
Here is a condensed version of Lantau News’ interview with Siu Yin.
Why are you running for District Council?
I have lived in Tung Chung for about 20 years. In 2014 I knew we had big developments coming into Lantau. From that we tried to have some education and oral history documentation to tell people what would happen.
In 2018, the Lantau Tomorrow Vision was announced. In those four years, I had learnt more about Lantau people, and we know more about their needs. There were many problems with elderly citizens, and some education needs.
In our group, Save Lantau Alliance, we discussed the elections and we wanted to have a role, to have more debate in the community to talk about what we want for Lantau’s future. That’s why we are running for election this year.
How do you see the role of the district council?
They get a lot of information from the government, and the government often consults with them on education, bus services, medical services, etc.
The councillors also can vote for the chief executive and one of them can be elected to Legco. They can meet with different government departments, they can share their ideas. They have many ways to work with the government.
You talk about reforming the district council. What would you do?
The Islands District Council has 18 members, including eight ex officio. So many people don’t have a voice. So we want to open a platform. We want the residents in the Lantau community, who care about the community, they can voice out.
For example, the bus company wanted to increase bus fares. They just informed the district council but most Lantau people didn’t know. In May we did a street survey. We found more than 68% of people didn’t know the bus company was applying to increase the fare.
We will have social media channels, like Facebook or WhatsApp. Give people many channels to share their opinions. We think if the district councils are working, then there will be less anger in the community.
Can district councils do anything to address the current political crisis?
We can open many forums to discuss what people are ask for. Is it reasonable or not reasonable, what is the meaning of the five demands, and so on. Because now you are blue, I am yellow, we are totally divided into two colours and we don’t want to talk to each other. It’s not a healthy relationship.
Lantau Tomorrow Vision is a huge project and the government seems determined to build it. What can you do in the district council?
If we can get to District Council, we will have an agenda item to discuss Lantau Tomorrow Vision. We want to have a public hearing. It’s not local to Central, so we will have public hearings in Lantau – in Mui Wo, Tai O, and so on, and we can hear people’s opinions.
How to help Lantau’s senior population?
Lantau has a population of about 24,000, of which about 7,000-8,000 are over 50. But we have just one elderly home in Mui Wo. Two years ago, the home in Tai O closed.
The medical system is very important for them. We have just two clinics, with a limited service level, in Mui Wo and Tai O. It’s not enough. Also in Mui Wo the population has risen to more than 6,000. That’s why we ask the clinic employ two doctors, now just one.
We ask for community support service for the elderly. Some of them need help in cooking and cleaning, so they can live in their homes. We would like to set up community care services where they go to people’s homes, help cook and clean.
We also need community centres for the elderly, where they can read newspapers, sing together, have some health checks.
Right now we have a small centre in Mui Wo. In Tai O – nothing. In South Lantau – zero. NGOs provide services from Tung Chung, but that’s not reasonable. So that is why we hope to have centres in South Lantau and Tai O.
Also, elderly people feel bored. They say they would like to have a community garden. They know how to farm. They can raise chickens; chickens can eat waste food that humans won’t eat.
They can provide value in return – food, recycling, education for young people as well. So they become teachers. It’s more positive, right?
What is the status of the Mui Wo school?
The school [the New Territories Heung Yee Kuk Southern District Secondary School] has been closed for 12 years. We want to re-use the school for the elderly services, medical service and also education services – for kindergarten, primary school – so it is not wasted.
In the last few months we have had communication with the residents. Many of the Mui Wo kids are under six years old. They are going to Tai O, Tung Chung or Tsuen Wan for kindergarten. We see here is a need in the community. We have an empty school – it’s a perfect match.
You have done some work on public transport issues. What have you found?
Two months ago we did a survey and held a forum.
For buses, the most important thing people are concerned about is service frequency. People also worry about the safety of the double decker buses. On the upper deck most of them don’t have seat belts. There’s no room for luggage upstairs, either, so they have to put their suitcases in the aisle. It’s dangerous.
For both bus and ferry, people want to cancel the extra charge for public holidays and Sundays. They think it’s not reasonable.
The government gives subsidies to ferry companies. We want to improve transparency and open up the financials of the ferry companies so we know how they are spending the subsidies.
People also care about frequency. We need more ferries at peak times. The bus and ferry companies and residents don’t have the chance to communicate. District council members can create a platform for us to talk – we can hold a meeting once every two months.
The government has made promises over the Pui O wetlands but has done nothing. How can you help protect the wetlands?
We have a law to protect the South Lantau wetlands and also to protect the buffalo. Two years ago the government agreed to update the law, but this year the Chief Executive Policy Address again failed to mention it.
I think district council members can raise this issue again.
In South Lantau and Mui Wo, we have different parties. One will love and care about the environment. They know the ecosystem is very important for the community. The second – they want more development. They have the intention to destroy the wetlands. They also have the intention to move the buffalo and cows.
The first party includes many of the residents. They love the buffalos and love the wetland, but they are scared to speak out. If district council members can collect people’s ideas about the wetlands and how to deal with problems of the buffalo and try to find a way to form a community consensus.
Also we have connections with the FEHD and the EPD, some of them are friends. We ask them what are the problems they face. Resources? Manpower? Rural party problems? We want to know what the problems are and try to find a way to protect the wetland and the buffalos.
I think education is very important. We have some residents who know a great deal about the cattle and buffalo and are willing to share. If more people know how to communicate with the animals and understand their behaviour, that will help.
What is the progress of the Mui Wo facelift?
They call it the Mui Wo improvement works. The first question is: improvements for whom? For tourists or residents?
When we saw the plan from 2017, we didn’t see improvement for residents. They moved the bicycle parking far away, and then moved the restaurants into the ferry pier building.
We collected some opinions. People really strongly disagree with moving the bike parking. It’s not convenient for them. But now the problem is not enough space. That’s why we have bicycles everywhere. So people suggest that we should extend the bike parking because more people are moving here.
So we asked the CEDD for more information. They told us the plan was made in 2017, but can change and they are considering changes. But they don’t think it will happen immediately – maybe it might take another five or ten years to finalise this stage.
For the residents we think that is good, so we have more time to discuss what we need. Hopefully more time to debate and more time for them to change their plan so it works for residents, not just tourists.
After years of inaction, the government is finally planning to extend ferry licence terms.
The Transport Advisory Commission said today the government has proposed to increase the cap from three years to effectively up to ten years.
TAC Chairman Larry Kwok said committee members welcomed Government’s proposal to amend the Ferry Services Ordinance.
Members hope to see that the Government’s proposed legislative amendments, if passed by the Legislative Council, will encourage ferry operators to make necessary longer-term planning and investment, with a view to promoting quality and sustainable ferry services for the citizens.”
Critics have complained that the existing three-year limit is too short to allow ferry operators to make long-term plans and investments.
The policy shift has likely been driven by the sharply increasing subsidies the government is handing out to ferry operators.
It is tipping HK$412 million into these private companies over the current three-year licence period, more than twice as much as the HK$190 million paid in the previous term.
Despite the subsidies, fares increased around 5%-6% over 2014-17.
While the longer licence period will give some stability and predictability, the government has no plan to rationalise the highly fragmented islands services.
Aside from Discovery Bay, which has its own service, three operators serve the outlying islands.
New World First Ferry, a division of the New World Group, services Mui Wo, Cheung Chau and the inter-island routes.
Ferry services will be suspended during the New Year’s fireworks display tonight, with no boats leaving Central between 11pm and 3am.
The last ferries on the Lantau route will leave Mui Wo and Central at 10:50pm and 11pm respectively.
The regular 11:40 and 12:30am services from Central will be cancelled.
Revellers wishing to take the ferry back to Mui Wo will have to wait for the 3am sailing.
MTR: All-night service
MTR lines will run all night.
Tung Chung Line trains will leave Hong Kong Station every six minutes from 8pm-2am, and every 12 minutes from 2am-6am.
Bus timetable unchanged
New Lantao Bus services will run unchanged tonight. Services as follows:
The 3M will depart Tung Chung for South Lantau at 12:15am, 12:50am and 6am.
The 11 will depart Tung Chung at 12:40, 1:20 and 6:20am.
The N35 will depart the airport for South Lantau at 1:30 and 4:30am.
The N1 will depart Mui Wo for Tai O at 3:45am.
Lantau residents who want to make their views known on the ferry service may have their chance next week.
New World First Ferry will host a meeting between passengers and executives next Friday evening.
But those who want to take part will need to hurry – deadline for applications is tomorrow (Sunday – see details below).
The number of participants is limited to 20.
Participants will be chosen through statistical sampling rather than on a first-come, first-served basis.
The meeting is open to Cheung Chau and Peng Chau passengers as well as those who use the Mui Wo route.
Most public transport licensees in Hong Kong are obliged by their licence conditions to hold regular consultations with passengers.
However, such meetings between First Ferry passengers and the ferry company are rare.
Information about the consultation is also scarce. It has posted a single notice at Central Ferry Pier, while the location of the event remains a secret.
By contrast, New Lantao Bus Co. holds regular meetings with passengers. It advertises them on its website but for for some reason gives extremely short notice.
For the last two meetings, in Tai O in October and Ngong Ping in September, it gave just two days’ advance notice.
The First Ferry consultation comes at a time when island ferry services are under unprecedented pressure because of rising visitor numbers and, in Mui Wo, the pending arrival of an estimated 2000 new residents next August.
Because of the crush of passengers on some weekends and holidays on Cheung Chau, the company has just launched a scheme that gives Cheung Chau residents with a monthly pass priority over other passengers.
What: New World First Ferry Passenger Liaison Group consultation
When: 6:30-8:30pm, November 24
Where: To be advised
Enrolment: Email to email@example.com or fill in enrolment form at Central Ferry Pier.
Deadline: On or before November 19
More information: Customer service hotline 2131 8181
Passengers 65 years and over can ride for free on buses and ferries on Sunday.
For the ferry, passengers need show their senior citizen card. On NLB and Citybus buses, they should show their senior card or Hong Kong ID.
For KMB or Longwin buses, they should show their card or use the Elderly Octopus.
The offer does not apply to the MTR.
Lantau bus and ferry companies are adding capacity to meet the expected spike in passengers next year, but have no plans to schedule extra services.
With Mui Wo’s population expected to increase by as much as 40% in the second half of 2018, First Ferry has ordered five new large vessels and the New Lantao Bus Company is tendering for double-decker buses,
But First Ferry says even with the new boats it won’t have capacity for new services.
Transport, police and Hospital Authority officials as well as public transport operators appeared before the Islands District Council meeting early this week to explain how they are preparing for Mui Wo’s growth spurt. As many as 2000 residents will move into two new Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) estates starting next August.
First Ferry has bought five new 423-seat vessels – previously the largest carried just 403 passengers – and says two are already in service. The other three will be deployed from the first quarter of next year.
New Lantao Bus Company is planning to run double-decker buses on the 3M route between Mui Wo and Tung Chung. It said it held a successful trial early this year and has just tendered for 14 double-decker vehicles.
First Ferry communication manager Chow Suk Man told the council morning peak-hour fast ferries were currently running at 80-90% capacity. Already one of the new large ferries is being deployed at 7am from Mui Wo.
But in response to Councillor Randy Yu, who asked if a backup ferry could be deployed in morning peak period, Chow said there was not enough spare capacity.
“If there are school trips or organisations planning to take this particular ferry, and if we are informed in advance, we can arrange a spare ferry for such occasions,” she said. But there was no spare ferry for a permanent arrangement.
Chow acknowledged it was difficult to plan without knowing the exact numbers of likely passengers. The company had requested information from the Transport Department about the size of the working population.
NLB vice chairman Chan Ching Lung said the company believed the double-decker buses could increase carrying capacity by 40-50%. The bus operator runs four special services from Pui O each morning which are 70-80% filled, he said.
District Councillor Randy Yu has called on government, police and transport providers to explain how they will cope with Mui Wo’s coming population boom.
The opening of two Housing Department estates in Mui Wo next August will add 700 new homes and increase the population by between 1,700 to 2,000 – a huge spike from the current level of around 5,400.
“The public is greatly concerned about the lack of community facilities,” Yu said in a question tabled to the Islands District Council.
Local residents are worried about the carrying capacity of the ferry and bus services, inadequate parking for cars and bikes, the level of medical services and the lack of police.
Yu, who represents South Lantau, said his office has even received calls from those who have purchased homes in the new estates expressing concern about the expensive ferry fares.
He called on the Transport Department, the Hospital Authority, police and the ferry and bus companies to attend next week’s District Council meeting to explain how they will address these issues.
Cash for local conservation projects, a solar power trial and the start of work on the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator top the list of measures affecting Lantau in Carrie Lam’s first policy address.
Lam announced she would make available funding for “countryside conservation initiatives” in areas of Lantau, including Pui O, Tai O and Shui Hau. She said the government would
The Environment and Conservation Fund is a government body, set up in the mid-90s, which in its last funding round in 2013 was granted $5 billion.
A new body, the Countryside Conservation Office, may also be a source of funds for Lantau conservation. It has a $1 billion kitty and a brief to “co-ordinate conservation projects that promote sustainable development of remote countryside.”
Another green project on the drawing board is the implementation of large-scale floating solar farms on the surface of Shek Pik and a dozen other Hong Kong reservoirs, following successful trials at Shek Pik and Plover Cove.
The project with possibly the biggest impact on South Lantau in the coming years could be is the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator – officially known as ‘the integrated waste management facilities.’ Work on the project, just one kilometre off Lantau’s south coast, is due to get underway soon.
The EPD issued a tender for the $21 billion project last December. Lam said the government intended to
Complete the tendering exercise and commence the design and construction works for the phase 1 project of the Integrated Waste Management Facilities for [municipal solid waste] treatment.
As reported earlier, most Lantau commuters will likely qualify for the planned fare subsidy scheme.
In other initiatives:
* A “district cooling system” is under consideration for the new development projects at Tung Chung and the HK-Macau bridge landing zone. A district cooling system is a centralised system of chilled pipes that can cool multiple buildings.
* Lam confirmed the government would go ahead with a review of the city’s heavily-subsidised ferry services, including the possibility of extending the licensing period or even offering subsidies for vessel replacement.
* The CE said she would encourage “the extension of optical fibre networks to villages in rural and remote areas.” Currently 117,000 people in 380 villages lacked access to high-speed fibre, Lam said.
Photo (top): Pui O – ready for conservation?
Highlights from submission to the Development Bureau (full submission here).
No Vision, No Data, No Conservation
The decision-making process on Lantau’s future appears to be explicitly designed to exclude community input. From day one LanDAC membership has been almost wholly drawn from the real estate, tourist and logistics industries, along with government political supporters and appointees. The public rightly doubts the genuineness of this ‘consultation.’
The government plan offers no vision for the island: what will it be like to visit, live or work in Lantau in 2026, 2036 or beyond? The report doesn’t say. At the same time it tries to micro-manage tourist development in ways that are counter-productive. Continue reading
Until the 1950s, the only way to get around Lantau, apart from walking, was by sea. Now, even with the looming spectre of a bridge to Central, water-borne transport could be making a comeback.
The LanDAC work report suggests expanding ferry services around Lantau, with new piers at Tong Fuk, Shui Hau, Fan Lau and Sunny Bay. Services would also run to the Sokos Islands, Tai O, Sham Wat, Sha Lo Wan and Tung Chung.