Category: Local politics

Secret plan to build public housing for up to 4000 on Mui Wo school site

The Hong Kong government is planning to build  public housing for as many as 4000 people on the old Mui Wo high school site and the adjacent car park.

The scheme appears to sideline the decade-long Mui Wo Facelift project and threatens to drastically change the character of the village as well as put further strain on transport and parking resources.

The Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) appointed US engineering firm Aecom to conduct a feasibility study in April 2019, but has made no announcements and has not presented it to the district council.

It remained unknown to Lantau residents until it was confirmed in a letter from CEDD assistant director KH Tau last month to Fung Siuyin, a staffer in the office of Eddie Chu and former district council candidate.

The secretive process also points to the potentially conflicted role of Lantau district councillor Randy Yu.

The school, closed since 2007 and officially known as the Mui Wo New Territories Heung Yee Kuk Southern District Secondary School, is part-owned by peak rural body Heung Yee Kuk. Yu is a kuk councillor and his brother-in-law Kenneth Lau is chairman.

Planned new public housing site (inside red circles). Source: CEDD

Yu has declined to respond to queries from Lantau News and local residents about the housing project.

It is not clear what role he has played in the project, whether the school has already been sold, and if so on what terms.

Tom Yam from the Citizens Task Force on Land Resources estimates that with a plot ratio of “about 7,000 to 8,000 sq m, the possible number of housing units can be in the range of 700 to 1,500, giving a population increase of 2,000 to 4,000.”

This would mean twice the population sharing the limited public space and transport services.

“If implemented, the character of Mui Wo will be drastically changed with all the implications on its infrastructure and various public service requirements.”

Fung Siuyin agreed the issues were the excessive scale of the project and the secrecy. She said it was too large a housing project in a small area.

She also questioned why the development would eliminate the village’s new car park, which provides about three-quarters of the parking in the pier area. “This is one of the craziest things about it, ” she said.

She said the lack of consultation excluded other community uses for the site, including primary or pre-school education or elderly care.

Since the school closed down 13 years ago a number of efforts have been made to re-use it. In 2009 a plan by the Education Bureau to lease it out to the Christian Zheng Sheng College for drug rehabilitation fell through after strong opposition from local residents.

Six years ago the bureau entertained offers from several schools, including the Buddhist Fat Ho Memorial School in Tai O, to take over the site, but for some reason it rejected them all.

Fung said an ex-principal of the school had proposed a Mui Wo education project to the bureau recently but had also been rejected. She said she would take this up with bureau officials.

In a letter to Planning Department director Raymond Lee, Yam said he applauded the efforts to convert a vacant school site to public housing.

“The government should have done so much earlier. This is not an objection to develop public housing in Mui Wo. This is a criticism of your planning process and failure to inform/consult the affected community until the community noticed activities in the vacant school and raised the question to CEDD.”

Yam points out that when the Planning Department reviewed vacant school sites across Hong Kong in early 2018 it did not identify the Mui Wo site for conversion to residential use.

Additionally, the Task Force on Land Supply report in February 2018 stressed that the Planning Department “should take into account various planning factors including the planning intention for these sites and the surrounding land uses and environment.”

Aecom, which was awarded an $11 million contract for the feasibility study, is a publicly-listed US firm much favoured by the Hong Kong government for major public works.

Its recent local projects including consultancies for facilities for the HK-Macau bridge border crossing and the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok link, as well as design of the West Kowloon rail terminus.

Randy Yu’s wife accused of assaulting helper with hot iron: report

Virginia Lau Yu-lin, the wife of Islands District Council chairman Randy Yu, is under investigation for allegedly assaulting her domestic helper with a hot iron.

Lau, 55, the daughter of late rural kingpin Lau Wong-fat, scalded the 23-year-old helper with a steam iron because she had ironed Yu’s socks before ironing his shirts, according to Apple Daily.

Castle Peak Police Station has confirmed it received a report of a scalding on May 9 and arranged for the victim to be treated at Tuen Mun Hospital on the same day.

Virginia Lau Yu-lin

A short time later, Lau accused the woman, a Cambodian national known as Ah Ling, of stealing items from her home.

The alleged scalding and theft are being investigated by Tuen Mun police. No charges have been laid.

The charge of employer assault of a domestic servant with an appliance carries a penalty of up to three years’ jail time.

Ah Ling told Apple Daily through an interpreter that she started working for Lau in late March after serving two weeks in quarantine.

She said during her employment she was not given any time off, working from 6 am until early morning. Her mobile phone was confiscated during her shift.

According to Apple Daily, on the evening of May 7 Ah Ling said she was ironing several pairs of socks, as instructed by another helper, when Lau entered the room and asked why she was “ironing your socks first?”

Lau took the iron from her hand and gave a demonstration for a few seconds before she suddenly pressed it against Ah Ling’s upper left arm.

Ah Ling said she screamed with pain. Lau told her to finish the ironing and walked out of the room.

Ah Ling’s upper arm after the alleged scalding

The next morning, Ah Ling’s sister persuaded her to take action. An employee of the agency that had engaged Ah Ling went to Lau’s residence and afterwards decided to call the police.

Several days later, Ah Ling received a letter from Lau’s lawyer, accusing her of slandering her and stealing property.

Apple Daily says its reporter was unable to make contact with Lau, and so tracked down Yu after an Islands District Council meeting. Yu denied the allegations and said he suspected the helper had “self-harmed.” He said Ah Ling’s long hours were a result of her working too slowly.

The charge of an employer assaulting a foreign domestic helper depends on how the abuse is carried out and the injury.

If the injury is minor, the charge is common assault or assault causing bodily harm, with a maximum sentence of one year. If an employer uses an appliance to commit an assault, the penalty is up to three years in prison.

Randy Yu has held the Lantau seat in the Islands District Council since 2015. In the wake of the sweeping democrat victory at last November’s district council elections, Yu is now the sole non-democrat among the 18 council chairpersons.

He has been married to Lau since 2002. They have two sons and a daughter.

Virginia Lau (second from left) and Randy Yu on their wedding day

Lau, a fashion designer, created a minor stir at the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak when she said she and her family were drinking Chinese medicine to ward off the virus.

Her brother Kenneth, who took over the Heung Yee Kuk after their father’s death in 2017, is one of the city’s most powerful politicians, a member of Exco, Legco and the CPPCC.

Have your say on Hong Kong: vote in this weekend’s democrat primary

Forget the security law: here comes the election – and you the voter can play your part.

The 2020 Legco election is scheduled for September 6, with some democrat activists calling the most critical election in our lifetimes. That may be hyperbole.

But they are also saying that the new security law may make this the last where candidates are not screened for their political sympathies. Probably not hyperbole.

To maximise their chances, and to fly the flag for the democratic process, the pro-democracy camp will hold a primary this weekend to choose its candidates for the Legco poll.

The primary is open to all registered voters. You just need to bring your Hong Kong ID card and proof of address to the voting station.

With the drama over the security law, it is easy to forget that the democrat forces obliterated the pro-Beijing parties in last year’s District Council elections,

Thanks to an energised electorate and a huge voter registration drive, they tripled their number of seats and took control of every district council (except ours).

With that sort of turnout, democrats believe they have a strong chance of winning control of Legco.

Of course, the communist party forces have been struck by the same thought, which is one reason they rushed through the new security law.

In any case, elections and electioneering are still legal, especially a privately-held one like this, organised by a group called Power for Democracy.

The voting is simple but the background is a bit complicated, because Hong Kong’s electoral system is designed that way. Here’s a brief explainer.

The Legislative Council (Legco) has 70 seats: 35 geographical seats of the kind you find in a regular democratic system, and 35 functional constituency seats that you don’t find anywhere else. A functional constituency is a business or sectoral seat, like agriculture and fisheries, Heung Yee Kuk or education.

It’s no secret that Beijing officials created the functional constituencies to shore up their monopoly on power. It has worked so far; democrat parties have always won the popular vote and pro-CCP parties have dominated the FC vote.

Right now the pro-democracy camp holds 24 seats; that number was 30 after the 2016 election, but the government found a way to disqualify six members.

In this weekend’s primary, every Lantau voter gets two votes:

* the local seat, known as New Territories West.

* the so-called district council ‘superseat’, technically known as the District Council (Second) Seat.

In Hong Kong’s system of multi-member constituencies, NT West returns nine members. The democrat parties currently hold six and don’t believe they will win enough votes to take a seventh. But eight democracy groups, known as ‘lists,’ are competing, so they are seeking your help in whittling that down to six. Choose just one list.

The ‘superseat’ is open to sitting district councillors from all over Hong Kong (there is another district council FC in which councillors themselves vote). Again, your job is to choose just one candidate or list.

That’s it. Happy voting.


What: Pro-democracy camp primary election

When: 9am-9pm, July 11-12

Where: Mui Wo: 8 Ngan Kwong Wan Rd, opposite Ngan Wan Estate Block 3.

Tung Chung: G/F Ying Fook House, Ying Tung Estate (July 11 & 12)

Fuk Yat House, Yat Tung Estate, open area (July 11); Tung Chung Town Centre Bus Terminal (July 12)

Bring: Hong Kong ID plus proof of address (eg, utility bill)

Further information & donations: Power for Democracy Facebook page

Pan-dems to reshape Islands council after stunning poll result

Pro-democratic candidates have dominated the Islands District Council poll to take seven of the ten elected seats.

In the most high-profile victory the memorably-named Sheep Wong Chun Yeung swept aside DAB vice-chairman Holden Chow, a vocal supporter of the extradition bill, in Tung Chung South.

Wong won attention across Hong Kong by leading a campaign against unaccompanied mainland tours in the chaotic wake of the opening of the Macau bridge.

Pan-dems won all seats in Tung Chung, with Lee Ka Ho ousting the other sitting non-democrat Sammi Fu in Tung Chung Central, Fong Lung Fei winning Yat Tung North and Sammy Tsui triumphing in Tung Chung North.

In Cheung Chau Leung Kwok-ho, who ran on the Islands Connection ticket, won easily against Kwok Wai Man.

The two incumbent pan-democrats, Amy Yung and Eric Kwok, were both comfortably returned, Yung in Discovery Bay and Kwok, whose old seat was abolished, in the new constituency of Man Tung.

Despite the huge democrat wins, they are still an effective minority in the council, where eight of the 18 members are ex officio rural committee chairs.

It is only due to these appointees that Islands remains the only district council not controlled by democrats.

But the massive increase in pan-dem numbers will mean issues such as Lantau Tomorrow Vision and the need for a additional council seat will soon return to the agenda.

Full voting details here.

Randy Yu defies democratic wave to retain Lantau seat

Randy Yu has hung on to his Islands District Council seat in the face of the massive democratic wave that swept Hong Kong yesterday.

Fung Siuyin from the pro-democratic Islands Connection won 47.9% of the vote to come within a whisker of a massive upset in a traditionally safe pro-government electorate.

As with the rest of Hong Kong, the Lantau race attracted a record turnout, with 5,517 casting a ballot, up 47% from 2015.

In a tense ballot count at the Mui Wo government complex late last night, the race looked set to go down to the wire after the Mui Wo result put Fung on 2315 votes, just 87 behind.

  Yu Fung
Tai O                     698 422
Tong Fuk               173 138  
Pui O                     363 385  
Mui Wo                 1168 1370
Tung Chung      461 318            
  2863 (52.1% ) 2633 (47.9%)

However, Yu picked up most of the votes in the Tung Chung booths, which includes old Tung Chung, remote north Lantau villages such as Sha Lo Wan, and Sea Ranch.

In the only formally-declared Islands council result, Civic Party member Amy Yung has comfortably held on to her Discovery Bay seat.

The democratic wave puts pressure on the new council to revisit the question of breaking up the Lantau seat. It is geographically the biggest constituency in Hong Kong and also 48% over population quota – way overdue to to be split into two.

In October 2017, the then-chairman Chow Yuk-tong rejected a government offer to add a new democratically elected seat.

Election ’19: Randy Yu, the man for the status quo

If you’re looking for a politician to represent Hong Kong’s political moment you could hardly do worse than Randy Yu.

A surveyor and property executive by occupation, Yu, a resident of Tuen Mun, was helicoptered into the Lantau seat and then the vice-chairmanship of the Islands District Council in 2015.

He is assumed to be running for chairmanship should he win tomorrow.

But while he may have been a district councillor these past four years, his main political role, and the source of his power, is his close connection to that uniquely Hong Kong outfit, the Heung Yee Kuk.

Yu describes himself as an independent and while he has no party affiliation he has married into the clan of the late Heung Yee Kuk strongman Lau Wongfat. The current kuk boss, Kenneth Lau, is his brother-in-law.

The kuk represents some 700 village rural committees and in its own telling protects traditional rights and culture.

But for most Hong Kongers the kuk, the rural committees and the indigenous house policy they defend are emblematic of the culture of entitlement and cronyism that fuels their rage.

In a city with the world’s most unaffordable housing, the rural committees monopolise hundreds of hectares of valuable land. No wonder that 42%  of Hong Kong want to see the small house policy abolished.

But the kuk is powerful – it has its own seat in Legco and its ‘rights’ are written into the Basic Law. Along with its opposition to modern democratic practice these make it a natural ally for a government that is a coalition of narrow vested interests.

Randy Yu’s main job is to preserve these privileges.

In person he is an affable fellow and it is impossible to imagine him, say, high-fiving a triad boss.

He has a track record in business environmental organisations, and was active in the revitalisation of the Tai O Heritage Hotel.  There is no reason to doubt his personal journey, as revealed to the SCMP, of wanting to put something back into the community.

But his four years as district councillor seem to have passed without a trace. It is difficult to find something, anything that he has achieved.

Lantau News has on several occasions invited Yu to share his district council track record, but he did not respond.

Councillors may have limited power, yet most sitting members are able to point to, say, a better bus service or new street lights. But even Randy Yu seems to have trouble identifying his successes.

His election material cites the Mui Wo sewage treatment works, for example. But the contract for that project was issued nine months before he was elected.

Why waste time on people’s problems?

Lantau News asked the local community, via a Facebook page, of their interactions with Yu. None of the nearly 5000 members could recall Yu helping to solve any problems.

One woman, whose family member was badly injured in a fall near the ferry pier, said she had asked for help but received no reply from Yu’s office and ended up dealing with the government department herself.

The most likely explanation for all this is that Yu suffers from the malaise that afflicts the city: a lack of responsiveness that comes with a lack of accountability.

Regardless of what district councillors actually do, rural parties have a huge patronage network and a rusted-on supporter base. Why waste time on other people’s problems?

As an activist from another island community puts it: “The establishment members have a huge base of support – they don’t bother doing anything even for the local Chinese community.”

That is the source of Hong Kong’s crisis. Since 1997, one leader after another has been unable to tackle the city’s big issues – housing, inequality, air quality, democratic reform –  because these would mean confronting the vested interests that keep them in power.

The current political impasse shows Hong Kong badly needs change. For all his good intentions, Randy Yu’s mission is to ensure that everything stays the same.  

Police called after campaign worker alleges assault in Tong Fuk

Police were called to Tong Fuk this evening after a canvasser for candidate Fung Siu Yin alleged she was assaulted by an unknown man.

The woman, a Mui Wo resident who declined to give her name, said she was handing out leaflets for Sunday’s district council poll when a man tried to take her campaign sign.

When she resisted, she said he struck her in the stomach and ran off. She said the contact was not forceful and she did not require medical attention.

The woman’s screams attracted a crowd, and she said she was “shocked” to find herself suddenly surrounded by about 12 people. Some of them abused her and threatened to attack her.

Lantau police mollify villagers

Another campaign volunteer called the police, who attended the scene at around 9:45 and spoke to the campaign workers and villagers. No arrests were made.

There is no suggestion that the incident was premeditated or involved any other political groups.

Election ’19: Fung Siu Yin, reform candidate

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?

The district council talked about Lantau Tomorrow Vision just once, for one or two hours, and then a show of hands. 

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.

Explainer: Island District Council election 2019

If Hong Kong leaders were trying to avoid controversy ahead of the District Council election, banning Joshua Wong was maybe not the way to go about it.

The exclusion of the 23-year-old activist poll became a global news story – to the doubtless bemusement of anyone actually familiar with district councils.

They are elected bodies, yes, but they don’t perform any meaningful governance. They are a branch of the Home Affairs Bureau with no power to make decisions, pass laws or raise revenue, and no income other than government grants.

Historically, they grew out of the neighbourhood support groups known as kaifong associations (街坊會) that the British formed back in 1949 (this wikipedia entry traces their history).

The district councils were created as a bridge between the unelected government and the governed, and that is pretty much their role today.

Today the councils are dominated by the DAB and other pro-government parties including the rural umbrella body Heung Yee Kuk.

The Joshua Wong kerfuffle shows that, amid the worst political violence in 50 years, even the once-sedate District Council has become a political battleground.

With government support plumbing new depths over its inept handling of the protests, democrat forces are expected to perform strongly.

A hill to climb for democrats

But they have a hill to climb. Of the current 458 members in 18 District Councils, 327 are pro-government.

The gap is even more pronounced in the Islands District Council, where 16 out of 18 members are pro-government.

The Islands numbers are further distorted by the presence of eight ex officio members – rural committee chiefs who are automatically appointed. Our humble local body accounts for almost a third of the total number of ex officio councillors.

Though their influence has dimmed in the rest of the city they remain quite influential in the Islands council.

Case in point was the flap over the possible addition of an extra elected council seat.

Currently the Lantau electorate covers all of Lantau south and west of Tung Chung, including Shek Kwu Chau and the Sokos. It’s the largest electoral district of any kind in Hong Kong.

Many if not most elected council members agree it should be split in two because of its physical size. 

But Amy Yung, the Civic Party representative, complained that the current Islands chairman, Chow Yuk-tong, an ex officio appointee from Lamma, merely consulted with fellow rural chieftains in deciding not to add a new seat.

In a statement to the council in February 2018, she pointed out that while the rural appointees may not feel any impact, any decision made on a new electorate could have “far-reaching” consequences for elected members.

While the number of seats remains the same, there has been a slight restructuring for the 2019 poll; the seat of Yat Tung South has been abolished and replaced by Mun Yat.

From taxis to trash

For all their limitations, the district councils are important in several ways.

First, as a sounding board for the government. Notoriously, Carrie Lam did not test her unpopular extradition bill at any district council. Her government did put the Lantau Tomorrow Vision to a vote, however. 

Second, it’s the only place where local issues are raised and dealt with. Concerns are aired and government bureaucrats are grilled on problems from taxis to trash.

Third, they are a handy source of information. The mostly bilingual pages of the Islands District Council provide records of council meetings as well as standing committees on topics such as Traffic and Transport and Tourism Agriculture Fisheries and Environmental Hygiene. The site has plenty of government papers on the nitty gritty of local services.

Fourth, the councils have an influence on the city’s politics beyond their regular remit of streetlights and bus services.

Between them the 479 members will get to choose 60 members of the chief executive election committee. One of the councillors also has the chance to be elected to a Legco ‘super-seat.’

So, in this impassioned political season, there are plenty of reasons for you to get along to the polling booth on November 24.

Islands District Council candidate list. Incumbent members indicated by red square

New Islands team to challenge for district council seats

A new team has formed to compete for Islands District Council seats at the coming November 24 election.

The environmentally-friendly grouping, Islands Connection (離島連線) will field a candidate in each of the four outlying islands.

The prospective Lantau candidate, Fung Siu-yin, was raised in Tung Chung and is a Lantau community organiser.

Their platform endorses the five demands of the anti-extradition campaign, opposes the $600 billion Lantau Tomorrow Vision project, calls for better ferry services and road safety and for reduction in waste and ocean trash.

They describe their approach as “promoting democracy in our island daily life, working on community issues and proposing environmentally-friendly solutions.”

The campaign proper won’t start until after candidate registration takes place next month, but they face an uphill battle in the conservative Islands council.

Islands Connection: from left Fung Siu-yin (Lantau), Caan Chui (Lamma), Leung Kwok-ho (Cheung Chau) and Jamie Tsui (Peng Chau).

Of its 18 members, ten are elected and eight are appointed ex officio as representatives of their rural committees. Only two members are from the pro-democrat camp.

Lantau’s current member, Randy Yu, backed by all of the island’s rural committees, was elected for the first time in 2015 with 50.4% of the vote.

However, Eddie Chu (whose NT West seat includes Lantau),  believes there is support for change:

“In my experience during the election, many villagers, including indigenous villagers, are supportive of my election platform – conserve the environment and stop white elephant infrastructure projects – but they don’t have the confidence to come out. They want to come out as a group.”