Passive HK govt waiting to hear from Beijing on new Lantau reclamation

The Hong Kong government has taken a passive stance toward calls for a huge reclamation off south Lantau, with Development Secretary Michael Wong saying it won’t commit either way without a “concrete proposal.”

Replying to a Legco question from pro-government legislator Alice Mak last week, Wong said he was aware of discussions about creating land for Hong Kong through reclamation in mainland China waters.

But he said the government would not take a position on suggestions – mostly from DAB politicians – to reclaim land around the island of Guishan, in mainland waters about 5km off Lantau’s most southerly point.

“In the absence of a more concrete proposal, the government is not in a position to make specific response at the moment,” Wong said.

The Guishan scheme is reportedly under consideration by Beijing as a means of adding to the land supply and helping kick-start the Hong Kong economy.

But Wong’s reply suggests that the government is either waiting for mainland officials to come up with a proposal, or that it would not make any move until given some direction by Beijing.

Wong adds that the government is open to “suggestions that could help relieve the land shortage,” but also makes it clear that it has no thought of taking action itself.

This continues a pattern seen in other major public works such as the HK$119 billion HK-Macau bridge, the HK$83 billion West Kowloon rail terminus and the HK$624 billion Lantau Tomorrow Vision, all driven strongly by Beijing.

The Guishan reclamation scheme was raised by DAB members during the recent NPC session in Beijing.

Pro-Beijing politicians and others since offered multiple ideas on how Guishan could be developed.

At a recent roundtable discussion, Leung Che-cheung, Legco member for New Territories West, which includes Lantau, pointed out that the unpopular Lantau Tomorrow scheme has not even been funded and would take at least a decade to complete, Ming Pao reported.

He said Guishan could provide 1,000 hectares of land, enough to accommodate 200,000 households and house new industries.

Tony Tse, the Legco member for the architecture sector, said Guishan could be a site for public housing and university facilities and prisons. Its position in the centre of the Greater Bay Area meant the Kwai Chung container terminal could be relocated there.

Despite its location far from any urban area, Guishan advocates have not spent much time discussing transport arrangements.

Leung said the island would be just “20 minutes” away from Central by high-speed ferry. He also called for construction of a connecting bridge from Guishan to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, 20km away.


Tai O warns tourists to stay out of residential areas

The Tai O Rural Committee and local residents have asked visitors to stay away from residential areas of the popular tourist village.

The rural committee posted a notice on Friday requesting tourists not to enter residential areas, Oriental Daily reports.

Inhabitants of the historic stilt housing districts, including Yee Chung, Sham Chung, Sun Sha and Sha Chai Min, have posted similar notices.

However, Oriental Daily noted that many of the popular landmarks, such as the suspension bridge and local restaurants, were continuing to attract visitors, while some tourists said they had not encountered any obstructions.

Eddie Tse, head of the Tai O Sustainable Development Education Workshop, said the number of tourists to Tai O had increased in recent months.

He said that while the old stilt housing areas were some distance from the main street, they still attracted sightseers wanting to take photographs.

He said many of the local residents were elderly and vulnerable, and the narrow streets and closely-packed stilt homes could accelerate the spread of the coronavirus. Local residents fear the entry and exit of outsiders will increase the risk of spreading the disease.

Govt in last-minute bid to fund Lantau Tomorrow project

The government is making a last-minute bit to win approval for the contentious Lantau Tomorrow Vision reclamation ahead of the Legco election.

Its funding request has been squeezed into the Legco finance committee agenda this Friday – the last sitting day ahead of the September 6 poll.

The government is seeking HK$550.4 million for a consultancy study into site evaluation around Kau Yi Chau and to examine transport infrastructure needs for stage one of the project.

It is the initial funding for a scheme forecast to cost HK$624 billion for the first stage alone — the city’s biggest ever construction project.

But the project is widely unpopular because of its cost and scale, the weak case for it and the presence around the city of many other white elephant public works such as the HK-Macau bridge.

The request, initially filed last year, was not voted on as a result of the democrat filibuster. It was foreshadowed by Development Secretary Michael Wong in his blog two weeks ago and then reappeared on the finance committee agenda early this week, surprising legislators and and media.

But approval seems a long way from being assured. Finance committee chair Chan Kinpor admitted to Oriental Daily yesterday it was unlikely to be passed.

Liberal Party legislator Felix Chung told HK01 last week that in the current political environment the Lantau Tomorrow plan may not be implemented at all.

The government fears it may lost control of Legco in the coming election. Pro-democracy groups overwhelmed government parties in last year’s district council election, and a primary among pro-democracy candidates on the weekend attracted more than 600,000 voters – equivalent to a fifth of total participation in the 2016 election.

Pro-Beijing parties have started to push an alternative, smaller scale reclamation on Guishan Island off southern Lantau.

Stage one of Lantau Tomorrow involves creating a 1200 ha artificial island around Kau Yi Chau, with freeway and rail links connecting to Lantau and Hong Kong islands.

A second stage, which is not part of this feasibility study, envisages creating another 500ha artificial island around Hei Ling Chau and Sunshine Island off Mui Wo.

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

Mui Wo school re-opened for storage, not quarantine: Health Dept

The vacant Heung Yee Kuk school in Mui Wo has been reopened to store material for the planned Penny’s Bay quarantine centre.

Health Department officials have denied it will be used as a quarantine facility itself, Apple Daily reported.

The sudden flurry of activity earlier this week, bedding, tables and chairs piled up in the school ground, prompted concerns from local residents that the long disused site may be deployed as a quarantine centre.

Security guards at the school gate said some local residents alarmed they had called police.

The Health Department said it was using the school to store furniture and other items ahead of the anticipated opening of the Penny’s Bay facility next month.

The Apple Daily noted that some of the items, including mattresses, were stored uncovered in the schoolgrounds and had no protection from the sun or the rain.

The Penny’s Bay centre, now under construction near Disneyland at a cost of HK$194 million, will host 800 units, according to Health Secretary Sophia Chan.

The school, officially known as the New Territories Heung Yee Kuk Southern District Secondary School, has been closed since 2007. It is one of more than 100 vacant school sites across the city.

NLB posts $9m loss on Covid-19 impact

The New Lantao Bus Co (NLB) has recorded a HK$9 million annual loss as a result of plunging passenger numbers caused by the coronavirus.

NLB’s parent company, Kwoon Chung Bus Holdings, said revenue “dropped drastically in February and March,” widening the annual loss.

It said it expects a loss in the 2020-21 financial year as well.

Besides the sharp fall in passengers on Lantau bus routes, NLB was also forced to suspend its recently-opened shuttle services to the HK-Macau bridge.

Kwoon Chung does not disclose details of its NLB operations, but says the business usually runs at a loss or a narrow profit.

It said it expects NLB to operate in the red “in the coming financial year as fare increase [sic] is not likely to be approved anytime soon and the group has to rely on the subsidy offered by the government to maintain a positive cash flow position.”

Kwoon Chung said net profit for 2019-20 was HK$22 million, down 92% from the previous year, and revenue of HK$2.463 billion was 17% lower.

NLB was forced into an embarassing climbdown in March after trying to slash its Lantau services without Transport Department permission.

It apologised for several days of chaos in which buses ran at irregular intervals, but said it would still pursue cuts to services.

Govt has plans for another huge Lantau reclamation

The central government is reported to be planning another massive reclamation project near Lantau, this time on Guishan Island off the island’s southern tip.

Officials are studying the feasibility of creating an artificial island around Guishan and leasing it to Hong Kong for public housing, HK01 reported this week, quoting unnamed pro-government sources.

The idea was put forward by DAB members of the Hong Kong delegation to China’s ‘two sessions’ last month, although it was originally proposed by Regina Ip’s New People’s Party in 2018.

It is one of a number of proposals being considered by communist party leaders to “support Hong Kong” after the implementation of the national security law, sources told HK01.

Those backing the idea believe the area west of lightly-inhabited Guishan is shallow water and suitable for reclamation, HK01 said.

“According to preliminary estimates, the shallow water area can provide at least an additional 1,000 hectares of land, which is sufficient for large-scale planning and development. If 20% of the land is used for residential purposes, it will provide 160,000 to 200,000 units”

The island lies about 2km southwest of Fan Lau, Lantau’s most southern point, and belongs to to Zhuhai city.

The DAB proposal suggests adopting the ‘Hengqin model,’ referring to a Macau real estate project on an island leased from the Zhuhai government.

Regina Ip told HK01 she hadn’t heard of the central government interest in Guishan, but says she had told mainland officials that it was a better idea than the Lantau Tomorrow Vision (LTV) scheme in Hong Kong central waters.

It is a much more modest proposal than the 1700-hectare LTV, the biggest project in Hong Kong’s history. It encompasses public and private housing and a new central business district and would connect with Hong Kong Island and the Shenzhen border by freeway and rail connections.

By contrast, the Guishan backers envisage connecting to Central by a “30 to 45 minute” ferry ride.

But that raises the spectre of another Tin Shui Wai, the remote new town in northwest New Territories plagued by unemployment and other social problems because of its distance from services and jobs.

The LTV scheme is estimated to cost HK$624 billion for the first 1200ha- stage alone. Legco is yet to approve a government request for HK$550 million for a feasibility study.

Reopenings: Lantau fitness centres, beaches, Tung Chung pool

The Tung Chung pool and library and local fitness centres have reopened as the city begins its return to normal.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department last week announced the reopening of Tung Chung and 32 other local swimming pools across Hong Kong, starting Thursday.

It also has opened the Tung Chung library and sent lifeguards back to Pui O and Silvermine Bay beaches, allowing them to open for the first time since March.

However, the Mui Wo library and swimming pool remain shut, as are – officially – the popular Cheung Sha and Tong Fuk beaches, although both beaches have attracted weekend crowds the past month.

Mui Wo pool

But most sports centres have reopened, including the Mui Wo and Tung Chung centres.

The Mui Wo gym is available daily at slightly shortened hours. From Tues-Fri it is opening from 9am to 10pm, with one-hour closure for cleaning at 1pm and 5pm. On Sunday it is open from 1-5pm and 6-10pm.

Pui O campsite has reopened at half capacity, but other Lantau campsites are still closed.

Picnickers can use Lantau barbecue sites but in groups of no more than eight, LCSD says.

Illegal land filling consuming Tong Fuk coastal greenbelt

Tong Fuk has become the latest Lantau village to suffer from unauthorised land clearance, a result of the vague planning laws and lack of enforcement that have plagued the rest of the island.

In the last three years, reclamation work has claimed hundreds of square metres of greenbelt between Tong Fuk village and the oceanfront, HK01 has reported.

The original work created a car park but has continued well into the adjacent green space, a cattle habitat and recreation area that also hosts the annual poon choi banquet.

Lantau’s landfill love affair spreads to Tong Fuk

The reclamation intrudes onto government land but the developers have ignored Lands Department warnings to halt work.

As with the rapidly-disappearing Pui O wetland, the entire zone between South Lantau Road and the beachfront is designated Coastal Protection Area (CPA) – but no planning or environmental laws exist to provide any actual protection.

Local conservation group Save Lantau Alliance wrote to the Sustainable Lantau Office and other departments about the unauthorised development, HK01 reported.

Outline Zoning Plan: virtually all land between South Lantau Rd and beach is zoned CPA (Source: TPB)

The Planning Department confirmed that the site is zoned CPA, which means any land filling or development work requires permission from the Town Planning Board (TPB). It said no development application for a car park or landfill had been received.

But planning agencies exercise their powers through the development approval process, which has never covered Tong Fuk or other villages on South Lantau Road, so they have no power to influence or stop any development.

As the Planning Dept said: “There is no regulatory authority there.”

The private-held portion of land belongs to a Mui Wo-registered company called Yuky Co. Ltd (耀崎有限公司), according to HK01.

A 1980s court case involving the late Heung Yee Kuk strongman Lau Wongfat found that the government cannot enforce planning laws on privately-held agricultural land.

Two deaths in four days from Lantau accidents

A 42-year-old man drowned while snorkeling at Lo Kei Wan near Shui Hau last night – the second accidental death on Lantau in four days.

Friends of the man, surnamed Tang, discovered him missing when they emerged from the water after diving near the popular campsite at about 9pm, Apple Daily reported.

After a search they found him still in the water but unconscious and called the Marine Police.

Tang was flown by helicopter from the Shek Pik wharf to the Chai Wan Eastern Hospital but he failed to recover. Police are investigating.

Lo Kei Wan (Photo: Lantau News)

Earlier in the week 64-year-old Lam Mo-yee, an experienced climber, died on the difficult Tsing Lung Stream near Sunset Peak.

Lam had gone to Sunset Peak with her husband on Tuesday morning. The two had become separated on the trail but that was not unusual, HK01 reported.

When she did not return home that evening her husband contacted police, who issued a missing person’s report.

A popular member of the local hiking and climbing community, Lam’s disappearance prompted a huge number of people to join the search from Pak Kung Au on Wednesday.

Lam Mo-yee (Photo: HK Police)

Firefighters found Lam unconscious near the Heavenly Lake, just below Sunset Peak, on Wednesday evening. Searchers said it appeared she had taken a path away from the main trail.

Lam had sustained multiple injuries and was pronounced dead at the Eastern Hospital.

Tsing Lung Stream is a steep canyon trail which rises from San Shek Wan to Sunset Peak.

It is popular among hiking groups but can be treacherous. In July 2017 a 66-year-old man was airlifted to hospital after an eight-metre fall.