Harbour activists offer conditions to break deadlock

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 October, 2003, 12:00am

If five key demands are met, opponents of reclamation will drop legal fight

The Hong Kong government must accept five demands before the Society for the Protection of the Harbour would reconsider taking it to court over its reclamation projects, the society's chairman said.

Leading activist Winston Chu Ka-sun gave the demands to the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen Ming-yeung in a meeting yesterday.

But Mr Chu also backed away from a pledge to mobilise a public march against the government, saying such a radical tactic might be bad for the international image of Hong Kong.

The activist hoped that the five demands would serve as a basis to resolve the dispute.

They are: an immediate suspension of reclamation work; a review of all such works and projects; public consultation with full disclosure of information about the projects; the formation of a Harbour Authority to oversee these projects; and restructuring of the Town Planning Board to include genuine public participation.

It was the first meeting between Mr Chu and Mr Suen since the row over the Central reclamation erupted two weeks ago. Their meeting coincided with the resumption of harbour dredging, which had stopped since Saturday.

The two-hour talk yielded no concrete progress nor any agreement over the dispute, but both parties said the meeting had gone well. Mr Suen said later: 'The government will seriously consider the five suggestions made by the Society for Protection of the Harbour.'

While the proposals were being considered, the society would not call for a mass rally for protection of the harbour, Mr Chu said. 'As a demonstration of good faith, we will not be planning any march. It might not project a correct international image of Hong Kong.'

But Mr Chu said the society would not give up its litigation plans until the government came up with a solution acceptable to the public. Litigation was a less desirable way of resolving the dispute.

He also warned that the society did not necessarily support the Central-Wan Chai bypass, and would not make any separate concessions on it. 'Unless the government can find a solution that is acceptable to the general public, we will not withdraw the application for judicial review [of the project],' Mr Chu said.

'We do not have the mandate to make any peace with the government. Until that is achieved, we will pursue that litigation full speed ahead. We shall fight the government from next year. But I hope that can be avoided.'

A judicial review hearing on the legality of the Central reclamation work has been scheduled for February 9-12. The government's appeal against an August court ruling - which said the Wan Chai reclamation Phase 2 violated the Harbour Protection Ordinance - will be heard on December 9.