Super prison or big mistake?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 12:00am

Correctional Services Commissioner Kelvin Pang Sung-yuen paints an alarming picture of Hong Kong's prisons at boiling point because of overcrowding ('Security shake-up after prison attack', February 4).

Yet the solution he advocates is tardy, extravagant and environmentally destructive.

The commissioner's dream is for Hong Kong to build a $12 billion super prison on a new reclamation site, half the size of Kowloon West, between two unspoiled islands off south Lantau. This huge project would take a decade to complete and be visible to 25 per cent of the population of Hong Kong and almost every visitor arriving by air, land or sea. At an estimated cost of nearly $1.5 million per inmate, the proposed facility would permanently ruin this area of great natural beauty for recreational use and potential tourism.

The super prison would be linked to Silvermine Bay by a new bridge, about the same length as Tsing Ma, and destroy up to 3km of virgin coastline. Wastefully, this would be used only during typhoons, 'super riots' and other emergencies. Mr Pang's enthusiasm for this grandiose scheme indicates he is seriously out of touch with mounting community sentiment to preserve what remains of Hong Kong's precious natural assets - and fiscal reserves.

The idea of a super prison, first hatched in the colonial era, should be scrapped. It reflects old, narrow and seriously flawed approaches to planning. Solutions to prison overcrowding should be found that are less costly, more practical and much more immediate, if Mr Pang's warning is to be heeded.

A public consultation and preliminary environmental impact assessment are under way. Legco will soon be asked to approve more funds for this bizarre project. We appeal to legislators to put a stop to this madness before Mr Pang's dream turns into the administration's next blunder - and a costly nightmare for Hong Kong.

TOM MASTERSON, Living Islands Movement, Central