Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Hong Kong High Speed Rail; a far too expensive train to nowhere

With great fanfare and self-patting-on-the-back, the West Kowloon Station opened and the first trains left for mainland China (well, in fact, most of the traffic was south-bound, into Hong Kong). What is baffling to me is that the mere fact that the trains ran and that there were people on them seemed to be enough for the politicians to claim that they were right and protesters were wrong and should just shut-up.

There are many reasons why that position is untenable.

1.  The high-speed rail remains a sorry example of cost overruns and mismanagement.

  • The 26km high-speed line is HK $19.5 billion overbudget, a full 30% over-expenditure
  • 3 years late (60% time overrun)
  • Incorrect assessment of use:
    As of today, it would seem that southbound trips vastly outweigh northbound ones and overall, vastly under the forecasts (already revised down) which were said to be conservative (forecasts below).

    “With the nine trains procured by the MTRCL and current train path allocation of the MTRCL and the Mainland operator, the daily maximum carrying capacities of the XRL trains are around 136 000 for 2018 and 2021 and 225 300 for 2031 respectively. In other words, there is ample capacity for the XRL to accommodate more passengers. Having regard to the fast-growing economic and tourist developments around the short-haul destinations, we are optimistic that the actual patronage of the XRL would exceed the above current patronage forecast.”https://www.legco.gov.hk/yr17-18/english/panels/tp/papers/tpcb4-1500-1-e.pdf
    Yet, the West Kowloon Station has only reached that “conservative” 80,000 daily patronage once since it opened, on October 5th, 2018. The average day is about half of that.

  • Has yet to yield a net increase in cross-border traffic; the daily averages cross-border traffic before the West Kowloon Station opened, then after, is essentially the same. There is simply a shift from usage of the slow train service to the faster train service.

2. Convenience could have been fully achieved without illegally leasing Hong Kong land to China.

The immigration facilities arrangement at the West Kowloon Train Station actually has floors that are under mainland China’s complete and total jurisdiction and is treated as Chinese land. Many pundits have erroneously said that similar arrangements exist at the Canadian/U.S. border and in the U.K.
Firstly, the comparison is weak as in both of these examples, the laws applicable in the pre-clearance areas are the laws of the host land, except for immigration laws. For this lame West Kowloon Station arrangement, I blame weak Hong Kong politicians, too eager to please Beijing and get their prized choo-choo train project going, rather than negotiating for a better borders law-enforcement deal. Secondly, there is legitimate concerns in having mainland laws applied in Hong Kong as history has shown us that China has very little regard for the rule-of-law. In that sense, there is most likely less risk for an individual in getting justice for any incident at a U.S or U.K border, than at a Chinese one.
There is very little point arguing about this with CCP sycophants as their faith and/or fear in the system clouds any kind of logical thinking.
Secondly, it is mostly uncontroversial that the joint checkpoint was unconstitutional as per the Hong Kong Basic Law. It is outrageous that Beijing’s take on this would be considered as they are a biased party in this and, again, one not known for promoting or enforcing rule-of-law.

3. The line to nowhere.
For Hong-Kongers, the highspeed line makes little sense.  As a commuter line to nearby cities, it just doesn’t work. Not much time savings to Shenzhen over existing means of transportation, and not practical at all to get to Guangzhou as the station is way out of the business district. All the while being a lot more expensive ride.

Taking all these points into account, it is very clear that this high-speed rail is not meant primarily to serve Hong Kong people but rather, for Beijing to complete its Belt & Roads train network and serve Xinping’s over-dimensioned ego. Does it mean we should reject it? No. A more fundamental question is: why would Hong Kong pay any of this? We shouldn’t! If Hong Kong politicians had any guts or competence, they would have realized that they could have gotten Beijing to pay for most of it.

As a Hong Konger, should you boycott this new high-speed rail? Why would you? You paid dearly for it, use it as much as you can! But at the next elections, vote for a politician that did not rubber-stamp the project. These pro-Beijing apparatchiks are the ones that must be punished.

P.S. It is comical to read the sorry prose of Beijing cheerleader Yonden Lhatoo on the subject: https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/transport/article/2165339/high-speed-rail-saga-exposes-sorry-state-anti-china  

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Plastic bottle pollution comes from mainland China

"Two-thirds of the plastic bottles that green groups found on beaches in Hong Kong and Taiwan had simplified Chinese labels instead of ones in traditional Chinese characters.
The bottles, believed to be manufactured in the mainland, are believed to have floated to the beaches.
The Green Earth conducted 10 surveys in August on beaches in Hong Kong, including Lap Sap Wan in Shek O, Lamma Island, Sai Kung and Sha Tau Kok. It undertook the polls with several green groups in Taiwan, which conducted four similar surveys on beaches across the strait, including Penghu, Wanli and Keelung.
A total of 5,254 plastic bottles were found, according to the surveys. But of the 4,441 bottles that were identified, 66 percent had simplified Chinese labels, while 28 percent had traditional Chinese characters.

Thirty-three percent of the bottles in simplified Chinese bore the Master Kong's label, followed by Wahaha, Nongfu Spring and C'est Bon at 16, 14 and 13 percent, respectively. More than 30 other brands were also identified.

In Taiwan, 85 percent of the bottles that were found contained simplified Chinese labels. Of the 1,776 plastic bottles that were found on beaches in Hong Kong, 38 percent had simplified Chinese labels, while 55 percent displayed labels in traditional Chinese. Other bottles that were found had different languages on the labels.
An Environmental Protection Department study in 2015 showed that only five percent of marine waste was from the mainland, while 95 percent was produced locally. However, Hahn Chu Hon-keung, Green Earth's director of environmental advocacy, disputed the ratio, saying the EPD should review its study methods as the surveys found that 38 percent of the bottles came with simplified Chinese labels."



Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Hong Kong's timeline to dictatorship

Hong Kong has seen two pivotal moments that sealed its fate on the path to dictatorship; the nomination of Xi Xinping as the ultimate ruler of the CCP, and C.Y. Leung’s nomination.
Xi marked an era of return to the worst of what communism can be in terms of suppression of freedoms and the implementation of and authoritarian regime. C.Y. Leung, in his desire to ensure the best potential outcome for himself, also turned-out to put in place changes, and question democratic institutions.

"The SAR as a local government does not have complete executive power and legislative power ... [It] is not in the broad sense a government that consists of executive, legislative and judicial powers.
The Basic Law that we often talk about is a law passed by ... the National People's Congress. Thus, can we superimpose a concept of separation of powers as found in other countries?”
This was widely echoed by the pro-Bejing apparachicks:
“Fan, a member of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, also said there was no ‘separation of powers’ in Hong Kong. She said the phrase is only used by pan-democrats”
“The Deputy Director of the Basic Law Committee, Elsie Leung, says there's no ‘absolute separation of powers’ in Hong Kong. (…) In an exclusive interview with RTHK, she said while there is no stipulation in the Basic Law that a separation of powers exists here, the fact is the executive, legislative and judiciary do have their own jurisdictions with sufficient checks and balances between them.”

“Leung has shown little hesitation in threatening – or resorting to – abusive litigation against his perceived opponents. In 2013 he threatened to sue the Hong Kong Economic Journal after it ran an op-ed by Joseph Lian Yi-zheng that purported to highlight Leung’s connections with triads and raised the possibility that he, or connected individuals, could be subjected to shuanggui (Party disciplinary investigations). Earlier this year, Leung again threatened to sue a newspaper – this time the pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily – for discussing a secret payment of HK$50 million from Australian company UGL. Jose Carlos Ugaz, chairman of Transparency International, panned the libel threat against Apple Daily as “ridiculous.”
More significantly, there are signs that Leung’s administration has invoked litigation in order to shift blame for politically unpopular decisions to the Judiciary. The occupation of part of Mongkok district during the Umbrella Movement ended not through the invocation of the police’s public order powers, but after an ostensibly independent group of taxi and minibus drivers obtained an injunction – a cynical move to disguise a public law issue as a civil dispute. More recently, the government’s last-minute application to bar two localist politicians elected to the legislature from retaking their oaths of office is a clear abuse of a process that runs counter to established constitutional principles and precedent.
A hallmark of Hong Kong politics under CY Leung has been the proliferation of pro-government protesters. Prior to the Leung administration, such groups and demonstrations were ‘extremely rare;’ they now form an entrenched part of Hong Kong’s political landscape. With them has come an upsurge in violence against pro-democracy protesters, as well as members of the press. As with violent Trump supporters, there are no signs of official connections between the government and its supporters’ conduct. Yet, the police have been accused of selective enforcement – for example by allowing anti-Occupy mobs to operate with impunity.
Leung and others in his camp have also been adept at exploiting xenophobic sentiment. Some of their vitriol has been directed at “foreign” (i.e. not ethnically Chinese) judges on the Court of Final Appeal – judges whose status on the Court is protected by Article 82 of the Basic Law. However, much more invective has been directed at individuals who seek protection under the Convention Against Torture. Pro-government politicians have stumbled over each other to smear asylum seekers as “fake” refugees or advocate internment in offshore camps. Leung outdid them all. Speaking after his 2016 Policy Address, the Chief Executive suggested that Hong Kong might withdraw from the Convention Against Torture over the ‘problem’ of ‘fake’ refugees.
Allegations surrounding Leung’s receipt of a payment of HK$50 million from UGL have proven to be an albatross around Leung’s neck since 2014 when The Age first exposed the payment. Leung has repeatedly stonewalled on the issue – and, as mentioned above, even threatened to sue the Apple Daily over its discussion of the UGL scandal.
Yet, even this may pale into insignificance compared to strange goings-on at the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the city’s corruption watchdog. In July 2016 Rebecca Li, the acting head of the ICAC’s investigative unit, was abruptly removed without explanation; senior investigator Dale Ko resigned days later. ICAC Commissioner Simon Peh attempted to quell speculation by declaring that he, and not Leung, made the decision to fire Li. Yet suspicions persist that Peh – who is accountable to the Chief Executive – removed her because of her investigation of the UGL payments. Peh subsequently panned the allegations as “slander” in a letter to democratic legislators, but declined to meet with them to explain the circumstances behind the abrupt personnel changes.”

Leung is also the instigator of the oath-taking legal reviews, and the demand for Bejing to re-interpret the Basic Law (although these were done behind closed doors).

C.Y. Leung left a poisonous climate of thinly-veiled authoritarianism which Carrie Lam does not seem willing to change. Unless the Hong Kong population demand change and takes the street to do so, nothing seem to indicate that this slow-progression towards CCP-styled dictatorship is going to abate.

I thought it would be relevant to try to forecast what kind of incremental changes we can expect from now to 2047 and beyond. Then, what I believe would be the proper way to counter-act, or at least to diminish their impacts.

  • C.E. forces the passing of Article 23 in its strictest form. (1)
  • Political parties advocating Hong Kong independence are banned. So is the promotion of independence in any form. It becomes punishable with 6 months jail-term. (1)
  • National education curriculum is part of the school curriculum, does not include anything negative about the Communist party (2)
  • Hong Kong resident jailed for kneeling during the anthem at Seven's game. Carrie Lam says that the law is clear and that Hong Kong must apply the rule of law
  • Beijing interprets the Basic-Law and state that separation of powers is not guaranteed by it and therefore, the mainland’s model applies. (3)
  • HK executive frequently intervenes and influence court cases. (3)
  • National education curriculum increasingly include reference to the great achievements of China (2)
  • Hong Kong legco passes law forbidding debate on Hong Kong independence throughout the school system, all the way to universities (1)
  • Bejing states that, according to Article 23, it must prevent the spread of seditious ideas on the Internet, and propose to extend the great Chinese wall to Hong Kong. (1)
  • Foreign judges are not allowed to practice in Hong Kong
  • Increased political influence into the workings of ICAC.
  • ICAC regularly used as a tool to suppress political dissent.
  • Protesters are denied right of assembly based on Article 23. Protest leaders are routinely jailed as a result. (1)
  • PLA soldiers in uniform in the streets of Hong Kong

Post 2047:
  • Legco is fully appointed by Beijing
  • Corruption is rampant in the ranks of government officials
  • Yuan is fully convertible across China
  • Hong Kong lawyers frequently get arrested for ‘promoting’ interpretation of the law that are in opposition with Bejing’s
  • Hong Kong uses Yuan as currency
  • Mandarin is the primary language of education in Hong Kong
  • Capital punishment is re-introduced in Hong Kong
  • Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the official economic model for Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong is a second-tier mainland city

Bejing’s useful idiots response is:
“Hong Kong is the only place in the world without a national security legislation,” Wang said. “It’s a major weakness in the nation’s overall security, and it has a direct impact on residents.”
Filter out the noise, and the message from the mainland is simple. There can be no political progress or improvement in governance without enacting the national security legislation as outlined in Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.
You may or may not have electoral reform – a version of which was vetoed by the opposition in 2015 – with Article 23 legislation. But you will never have electoral reform without it.
Criticise all you want but the central government is not a liberal democracy, so you are barking up the wrong tree demanding that it behave like one.”
Or the opposition can drop its opposition to Article 23. In exchange, demand Beijing relaxes its restricted framework on electoral reform and accelerate the pace of reform for both the chief executive and Legislative Council elections.”

We see here Lo’s naivety; why would Beijing relax its framework on electoral reform? It has been quite happy to re-interpret the basic-law whichever way gives it more power. Actually, quite the opposite, Bejing has quite clearly shown signs of how it will pressure Hong Kong to use the law:

“An adviser to Hong Kong’s leader has defended a former Beijing official who urged city residents not to cross a legal line by challenging China’s socialist system, saying it was not a hardline stance.
Qiao Xiaoyang, in the city for a week-long tour, appealed to Hongkongers on Saturday to back the Communist Party.”
“And some say advocacy of Hong Kong independence is protected by freedom of speech. Conspiracy and incitement to split up the country is just freedom of expression? No such reasoning would be acceptable in any part of the world.” (False)
“Since Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty, some people in the city have openly opposed the socialist system in China. This contravenes the Basic Law, and is unconstitutional. In accordance with the Basic Law, which draws its power from the constitution, no person has the right to oppose the country’s fundamental system.
The leadership of the Communist Party of China is the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Therefore, the leadership of the party is also part of the constitutional system. When one respects the constitution, upholds the constitution, and abides by the constitution, one should also respect, support and follow the leadership of the party.”

The only way to deal with the bully, is to blunt its instrument of torture. Therefore, the only way for Hong Kong to escape the ever-closer clasping grip of the Chinese dictatorship, is for us to make into law an Article 23 that proscribes its abuse. Something akin to the Canadian sedition law would be desirable in my opinion. It would also give the courts a clear interpretation of the basic-law which protects freedom-of-expression.

Sedition laws were passed during time of war (1918). Furthermore, Brandenburg v. Ohio affirmed in 1969 that seditious speech in itself, even the advocacy of violence, was not sufficient for condemnation unless it constitutes an imminent threat.

In Canada, sedition is covered by article 59 of the Canadian criminal code.

Seditious words
59 (1) Seditious words are words that express a seditious intention.

Marginal note:Seditious libel
(2) A seditious libel is a libel that expresses a seditious intention.

Marginal note:Seditious conspiracy
(3) A seditious conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to carry out a seditious intention.

Marginal note:Seditious intention
(4) Without limiting the generality of the meaning of the expression seditious intention, every one shall be presumed to have a seditious intention who

(a) teaches or advocates, or

(b) publishes or circulates any writing that advocates,

the use, without the authority of law, of force as a means of accomplishing a governmental change within Canada.

There’s no real anti-sedition law in Germany

Section 73 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 abolishes sedition and seditious libel. This came into effect from 12th January 2010.

Has anti-sedition laws that date back from its colonial past. And it is highly controversial as it is mostly used to suppress dissent from the political discourse.

I believe that the best way to handle this situation is to be vigilant, to agree on the need for a mandatory national education curriculum, and for schools to define the curriculum together, instead of waiting for it to be imposed by the government.

Separation of powers need to be defined de-facto as part of the implementation of the legal framework. It should be defined and referenced as such in legal documents. Any changes by Beijing would then become obvious and likely to generate significant popular backlashes

Pan-democrats need to swallow their pride and accept the first step towards a more democratically elected C.E., which is to accept Beijing’s nomination committee as it was proposed, associated with a condition that the nomination procedure be reviewed every 4 years

In closing, the quote below sums-up what is the most dangerous frame of mind in the current discourse:
"Freedom of speech is not an absolute. It is subject to limits in practically all human societies. Sometimes such limits are justified; other times, not.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution, in rendering free speech almost an absolute right, is an outlier. Many people admire it from afar. Then again, it’s much easier to deal in absolutes than having to acknowledge nuances and conditions.

It seems to me a far greater achievement for societies that have managed to balance free speech with the need for public order and social consensus."

The fact is that all modern, open societies, which also are the richest incidentally, all have very, very few restrictions to freedom of speech, usually centered on libel, hate speech, and advocacy of violence. The public order argument is almost always the argument of autocrats and despots…

Friday, March 09, 2018

China's war on pollution, and seems to be losing that war...

Very interesting article from Bloomberg.

"China is cracking down on pollution like never before, with new green policies so hard-hitting and extensive they can be felt across the world, transforming everything from electric vehicle demand to commodities markets."


But is the principal source of ozone-depleting CFC...

"Evidence then uncovered by The New York Times and the Environmental Investigation Agency pointed to rogue factories in China as a likely major source.

Now, the E.I.A. has prepared a report that it says bolsters the finding that Chinese factories are behind the return of CFC-11."


Monday, March 05, 2018

Land use Hong Kong

From Designing Hong Kong. September 15th, 2018

Land supply? Follow the money

Three core issues are starting to crystallise as the consultation process about Hong Kong’s land supply moves along. And the options will definitely not be cheap. Let’s look at who is chasing the money.

The construction and engineering industries, together with the Government, are in favour of a plan to create a large new reclaimed island between Lantau and Hong Kong Island. Our Hong Kong Foundation has taken the lead in calling for an Enhanced East Lantau Metropolis of 2,200ha – double what the Government has proposed. The cost is estimated at $2,000/sq.ft., or about $500 bn.
The beneficiaries of the funds will be the contractors and engineers. And the Government will generate land premiums from the land sales. The proponents’ argument is that resolving the issues involved in  developing the New Territories will take too long. Opponents are concerned that, besides the damage to the marine environment, the fact that so much money is tied up with this mega-project means there will be no resources left to clean up the New Territories.

Unlikely partners – green groups and the landowners, including our home-grown developers and the Heung Yee Kuk – are favouring development of the New Territories. Green groups are keen to see a stop to the environmental rot of the brownfields, while the landowners want to cash in on their land banks. Green groups want land-resumption programmes, together with a strengthening of the Government’s resources and legal powers to ensure that brownfields don’t spread to other land, destroying habitats and agriculture. Many of the landowners, however, want the right to develop their own land. Some are suggesting a compromise solution, with Public Private Partnership developments. The cost of land resumption to be paid to owners is lower than the cost of building the artificial island, but it will require more government manpower to negotiate with the many parties involved. Our “lazy” government prefers writing a tender for a reclamation project and then leaving it with the contractor.

Military land
Much of the 2,700 hectares of military land is currently underutilised. The naval base at Stonecutters is an essential facility and it would be impractical to move it. The air force facilities in Shek Kong are also essential, but they could perhaps be moved to Chep Lap Kok airport once the third runway is in place. The nearempty barracks and the firing range in Tuen Mun should be reviewed to see whether the land can be used for better public purposes.
Article 13 of the Garrison Law promulgated by the NPC in 1996 allows exactly for this negotiation to take place between the Hong Kong Government and the PLA. It also sets out how to deal with the associated costs and the compensation to be paid. Given the clamour for land, both parties have a serious responsibility to weigh military versus public uses for each site. Article 15 explains how such a discussion is to proceed.

The above are the three big items. Other options are near-shore reclamations (these are generally supported, but there are local objections), the use of golf courses (there’s endless debate over
privileges, but we do lack sports facilities) and moving the container port (or consolidating it with other ports in the Pearl River Delta).
(Article published in Southside Magazine - September 2018 issue)

Citizens Task Force on Land Resources Position Paper on Land Consultation

1. There is no land shortage — we need better strategic land use planning.
2. The elephants in the room: Financialization of property and housing
3. Reconsider growth by numbers
4. Misaligned housing policies
5. Holistic planning based on solid principles
6. Comprehensive criteria for evaluation of land supply and development strategies
7. Social justice in planning and development
8. Life cycle analysis beyond technical feasibility
9. Environmental justice is vital to the quality of life
10. The goal of land planning is an improvement of the quality of life for the general public
11. We have a land reserve: Ample existing land can be optimized through better planning
12. Priority should be better use of land resources in the New Territories
13. Stop the spread of brownfields
14. Resolve infrastructure capacity for existing and future residents and business in NT
15. Turning Fanling Golf Course into a public good
16. Near-shore reclamation can be source for land under the right circumstances
17. The military land is not taboo.
18. Village environs are not taboo.
19. Land options that should be ruled out — East Lantau Metropolis
20. Country Parks are a special asset, not a land bank.

21. Hong Kong needs an independent land resource committee

Underutilised land resources in the New Territories:
  1. Brownfields: At least 723 ha[1]
  2. Additional NDAs in New Territories: 720 ha
  3. Land banks held by large private developers: 1,000 ha
  4. Military Sites: At least 270 ha
Other sites:
  1. Short-Term Tenancies, Unallocated Government land&Temporary Government Land Allocation: 270 ha
  2. Underused land near to Disneyland: 60 ha
  3. Nam Tong and other near shore reclamation: 688 ha
Total: 3,731 ha


Contrasting views on the best approach to find land to build flats on.

Bernard Chan
“Unfortunately, the easiest land options are potentially the worst. It would be simple to find more land for housing by taking small slices off country parks. But as environmentalists point out, it almost certainly wouldn’t stop there. Future governments would go back for more – and country parks as we know them would be finished.”

“Politically, the idea of resuming developers’ unused land in the New Territories is also quite popular. But in practice such an effort would probably be bogged down in legal challenges and other difficulties. We could get quicker results by offering landowners positive incentives to develop – but then we run into public hostility to “collusion” with developers.

Using brownfield sites in the New Territories also sounds easy. But we are talking about hundreds of small plots of land, each with its own legal and planning issues.”

The last statement has been completely debunked by many groups(1); there are more than enough large plots of land that necessary. What is lacking is political will.

“In the short to medium term, we have no choice but to carry on finding and developing land on a small-scale, piece-by-piece basis. This points to agricultural and brownfield sites. It will involve ownership problems, infrastructure challenges and probably resistance from residents in adjoining areas.”

Quite revealing in that the government would rather spent billions to avoid any kind of responsibility or accountability in managing the re-redevelopment of existing land!

“When I chaired the Council for Sustainable Development, we recommended various planning reforms to make urban areas less crowded and more liveable. Not much happened because officials were under pressure to squeeze more homes into the available space.

This is frustrating. But it seems clear to me that if we really want to rethink our urban environment and improve quality of life – on a serious scale – we need to find a long-term supply of decent quantities of land. And the realistic way to create much larger, new, empty space is through reclamation.”

Basically, it sounds like that what Chan wants is to reclaim land so he can build a North-American style suburb!? This is foolishness of the highest order; density IS what makes Hong Kong so efficient from an infrastructure point of view. It also gives Hong Kong an economic advantage, and makes it a unique place in the world where the great outdoors can be enjoyed within a few minutes public transportation from the thrills of the city.

“Various groups have been making proposals for major reclamation recently. I was involved in an Our Hong Kong Foundation idea for a 2,200-hectare artificial island east of Lantau, which could house a million people. Some other proposals are not on such a big scale.
Obviously, there are objections – notably about the financial costs or environmental impact. But the potential benefits for Hong Kong would be huge.
Put briefly, the government could for the first time have significant empty land available. There would be far less bureaucratic pressure to maximise revenue from land sales. And officials could plan from scratch.”

“The government could decide how big flats should be, how many should be public housing, or how much the private ones should cost. It could design ‘smart city’ features, leisure facilities, homes for the elderly and green transport systems that we can only dream about today. It would also provide extra capacity for when older districts need to be redeveloped in the decades ahead.”

All of this is possible now… with a bit of thinking. This just reads like PR for his pet project…

‘amwg’ on the comment section of SCMP notes about that article:
“Vested interest and collusion of the highest order. Bernard Chan is the vice chairman of Our Hong Kong Foundation which is founded and chaired by Ex CE Tung Chee-hwa, The foundation’s governors and supporters represent the major developers, financial groups, big business and powerful insiders – New World, Henderson, Hang Lung, Sino Group, Shui On, Shimao, Shun Tak, Fung Group, Lan Kwai Fong Group, Arthur Li, Elsie Leung.
These property developers are salivating at the $248 million feasibility study and $500 to $700 billion capital cost of the government East Lantau Metropolis and the foundations' Enhanced East Lantau Metropolis..
Yet Bernard Chan sits in the Executive Council and can lobby Carrie Lam and others from inside the highest level of the government.
If this is not conflict of interest, I don't know what is.”

An now what is essentially a rebuttal from Tom Yam, still in the SCMP:
“Reclamation is unavoidable, says Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. What’s more, it must be “large scale” to create land for urgently needed housing and for long-term economic development. You can be sure a large chunk of Lam’s policy address will lay out reclamation as the solution to most, if not all, of Hong Kong's problems.
But is it? Even green groups would agree that near-shore, cost-effective reclamation should be considered. But the extremely high cost, complexity, risks and environmental consequences of large-scale reclamation in the middle of the sea make it a wholly different animal. And that animal will turn out to be the kind of white elephant beloved of property tycoons and construction companies.

Let's put a name to the large-scale reclamation that Lam favours: the East Lantau Metropolis, proposed by the government. It is estimated this artificial island of 1,000 hectares, to house up to 700,000 people, will  cost HK$470 billion. But even an animal as massive as this is not monstrous enough for the Our Hong Kong Foundation, a think tank chaired by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa. It is now lobbying for an Enhanced East Lantau Metropolis, doubling the size to 2,200 hectares of reclaimed land, housing up to 1.1 million at an estimated cost of HK$700 billion.

Before committing to the biggest infrastructure project in Hong Kong’s history, likely to take 20 to 30 years, costing more than the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, third runway and high-speed rail link to the mainland combined, detailed scrutiny of its viability is imperative. Astoundingly, in glossy brochures and glib speeches, government and foundation officials deploy skewed projections, emotive images and feel-good scenarios in place of serious analysis.

They begin by inflating the demand for land. The government puts demand at 4,800 hectares, on the assumption that 300,000 buildings older than 75 years need to be redeveloped. By lowering the threshold to 50 years, Our Hong Kong Foundation bloated the buildings that need to be developed to 600,000. It further increased the demand for land to 9,000 hectares by assuming a plot ratio of 3.6, much less than the Planning Department’s guideline of 6.5 for new development areas. Many experts consider these estimates excessive.

Then they gloss over potentially serious issues. Fundamental to these Lantau reclamation plans is the viability of their location. Such a city-in-the-sea, kilometres from land, will be vulnerable to rising sea levels and extreme weather. Reclaiming a huge swathe of sea will shrink the navigable waterways, narrow some passages and strengthen currents, making it more hazardous for marine traffic. Other areas will be almost enclosed, deadening the marine environment.

And were it viable, is it needed? Due to the ageing population and declining birth rate, Hong Kong’s population will peak at 8.22 million in 2043 and decrease to 7.72 million in 2066. Yet with this new metropolis, or its enhanced version, Hong Kong will have the capacity to house 9 to 9.4 million people. Why create unnecessary capacity at astronomical cost, draining funds from social welfare, education and public health?

Both the government and the foundation use heart-rending images of families currently in dire housing to sway public opinion. But creating a new town on existing land takes 12 to 15 years; longer if the land has to be reclaimed. Thus, reclamation cannot improve the lot of the 210,000 residents in the 93,000 partitioned units, or shorten the waiting time of 5.3 years for public housing.

So if the Enhanced East Lantau Metropolis plans don’t provide more housing in the short term and lead to overcapacity in the long term, can it be justified for future economic development? Its lobbyists invoke “integration” with the Greater Bay Area and Belt and Road Initiative in vague terms, never articulating precisely which sectors of the economy will benefit and to what degree. Unlike Pudong and Singapore, where reclaimed land fit into a specific economic strategy, in Hong Kong the strategy seems to comprise a plethora of grandiose slogans like “game changer” backed up by no deliverables.

The figures that the foundation has produced are so unrealistic as to be laughable. It claims a fast-tracked Enhanced East Lantau Metropolis can be ready for initial residential intake in 11 years (2029) and completed in another three years.

Think about that: 14 years to reclaim 2,200 hectares from the sea, construct 37km of railways and 20km of roads, five undersea tunnels, two tunnels through Lantau’s mountains, along with sewerage, utilities, schools, hospitals, etc, to support 1.1 million people. Then think about the big projects in the past decade that have all failed timing and cost predictions, and compromised safety.

Our Hong Kong Foundation is campaigning for reclamation on a scale even larger than the government has proposed, but otherwise they are singing from the same song sheet. And it’s the usual two-part harmony.

The foundation’s governors and supporters represent the major developers, financial groups, big business and powerful insiders – New World, Henderson, Hang Lung, Sino Group, Shui On, Shimao, Shun Tak, Fung Group, Lan Kwai Fong Group, Arthur Li, Elsie Leung, and Bernard Chan. So it has deep pockets to lobby for reclamation-centric development.

The foundation and Carrie Lam are talking up a “fast track” approach towards reclamation, even before the end of the current public consultation on land supply. Whatever the results, expect Lam to use them to claim a public consensus for reclamation in her October policy address. After all, it’s “unavoidable”.

Tom Yam is a member of the Citizens Task Force on Land Resources, a group of professionals dedicated to broaden and facilitate the debate to critical issues including sustainable development, the optimal uses of land, and the conservation of resources”


A bit of a data dump...

"We are an important force in stabilizing Hong Kong."
- Leung Fuk-yuen, chief of Tai Tong village in Yuen Long
Read: We ensure the status-quo and support Beijing. We do not care about high property price as long as we can keep making millions on the back of the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong population.



“'Only 24 per cent of total land (size of 110,000 hectares) in Hong Kong are developed land, with the rest being greenery, including country parks, farm land and land for other uses,' said Wong in a luncheon meeting on Thursday."

That is exactly what makes Hong Kong a unique place in the world, and what makes its mass transit work.

Our Hong Kong Foundation, founded by the Bejing and Heung Yee Kuk supported Tung Chee Wa says more reclamation is needed. I call bullock!


Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd., Henderson Land Development Co., New World Development Co. and CK Asset Holdings Ltd., are sitting on land banks holding more than 1,000 hectares of unused farmland. These could yield 500,000 new homes over the next 25 years according to CLSA Ltd.’s CEO Jonathan Slone. But developers say the government charges them very high premiums for converting farmland to residential use. One option the task force is considering is a public-private collaboration where the government would cut those premiums and help pay for roads, water and other infrastructure serving the sites, while the developers provide some affordable public housing.


Revamping use of of so-called brownfield sites on private land in the New Territories, currently occupied by a smattering of open air storage facilities, warehouses and carparks, could free up 1,300 hectares of land. The plan would involve relocating these sites into multistory industrial structures, reducing the amount of land they occupy by two-thirds. Lawmaker Kenneth Chan said on Radio Television Hong Kong on Feb. 22 that part of the government’s projected HK$168 billion ($21.5 billion) budget surplus for the year ending March could be spent on building these new structures.