Study into 'superjail' will be in two stages

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 May, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 May, 2003, 12:00am

Faced with mounting community pressure over a government proposal to build a $12 billion super-prison on Hei Ling Chau, the Finance Committee yesterday decided to split funding for a feasibility study into the project into two phases.

The first phase of the study, with funding of about $7 million, will focus on land use and planning issues, with provisions for a comprehensive public participation process.

The second phase, a $40 million engineering study, will depend on the outcome of the first stage.

The proposed jail is expected to house about 7,000 prisoners and lead to the closure of eight existing prisons, according to the Deputy Secretary for Security, Jennie Chok Pang Yuen-yee.

During the 21/2-hour debate in Legco's Finance Committee, legislator Abraham Shek Lai-him questioned the legitimacy of allocating such a large sum of money for the prison plan when it could be better spent on more meaningful projects.

'Is it necessary to build a superjail during this economic downturn? With the budget deficits, tax increases and welfare cuts, there are other ways to use the money to better benefit the public.

'Many people are currently living in conditions that are far worse than those in prison,' he said.

Unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan urged the government to scrap the project immediately. He said more than 90 per cent of Peng Chau residents had voiced opposition to the plan.

Tom Masterson, a spokesman for the Living Islands Movement, which is against the proposal, said the compromise was a 'victory for the public consultation'.