Super-jail seen as best use of island

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 June, 2004, 12:00am

Economic potential an 'overriding' factor for not choosing border site for prison

The choice of Hei Ling Chau as the site of a proposed super-jail was made after a selection process that concluded there was little potential for alternative development, a senior security official said.

Green groups and Lantau residents have expressed outrage at the choice of Hei Ling Chau, where an 80-hectare plot is to be reclaimed from the sea and a 2.2km bridge built to connect it with Lantau.

Opponents say Kong Nga Po near the border - which was shortlisted along with Hei Ling Chau by the government as a feasible site - was more suitable for the $12 billion prison project.

The senior security official, who wanted to remain anonymous, said there was an 'overriding reason' for not picking Kong Nga Po.

'It is located at the centre of the frontier closed area and occupies a unique strategic position. It will have great potential in economic integration with the mainland,' she said.

The official admitted that the Kong Nga Po site was operationally better than Hei Ling Chau as it was closer to the bases of the disciplined forces, including police and ambulance. But its strategic location for economic integration was irreplaceable, which was not the case for Hei Ling Chau.

'Some might argue that Hei Ling Chau also has its economic potential to become an eco-tourism site, but such a site could also be developed elsewhere,' she said.

'The island is now a closed area and there are already three prisons there. The public couldn't freely go there anyway.'

According to the 'Hong Kong 2030' planning study, released late last year, Kong Nga Po could be used for logistic or entertainment purposes. But these proposals are not final and more feasibility studies are needed.

She said the land formation costs of developing either site as a super-jail were about the same - $2.5 billion.

The Kong Nga Po site would involve land resumption, removal of burial grounds and the clearance of some fung shui woodland, while the Hei Ling Chau site needed a bridge and reclaimed land.

She said there was no 'perfect site' for a super prison and a 'choice between evils' had to be made after considering a basket of factors such as economic benefits, conservation concerns and cost.

'There are not many alternative sites as we need 80 hectares. Our professional colleagues looked at all places across Hong Kong and came up with some shortlisted sites,' she said.

'The criteria are objective and they are reasonable. No one has ever come forward to question the reasonableness of the criteria.'

The criteria included levelness of the land, whether the site was fragmented or needed to be cut and filled and avoidance of villages, burial grounds and ecological sites.

The official said all necessary procedures, such as environmental impact assessment and public consultation, would be undertaken.