Reclamation plans put at risk unique ways of life on outlying islands

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 January, 2012, 12:00am

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I agree with the many people who have objected to the Hong Kong government's proposed land reclamations around numerous outlying islands.

In particular, I refer to the comment by Keung Siu-fai, secretary of the Hong Kong & Kowloon Floating Fishermen's Welfare Promotion Association ('Reclamation angers fishermen', January 8). He said that there are 3,000 fishermen in Hong Kong and also: 'We should pay respect to the ancestors of this city which started off as a fishing village, but look at how the government is humiliating us.'

Hong Kong's fishing heritage, its people, boats, associated festivals, temples and beliefs, such as Tin Hau and Tam Kung, are unique and deserving of protection. They are fundamental to the identity of Hong Kong.

Reclaiming land around the outlying islands will be another nail in the coffin of Hong Kong's identity, as well as destroying fishing and breeding grounds and the habitats of various forms of marine life. Article 40 of the Basic Law protects the 'lawful traditional rights and interests of the indigenous inhabitants of the 'New Territories''. The outlying islands are officially part of the New Territories. The traditional rights and interests of the fishing people in Hong Kong in and around the bays of the islands proposed for reclamation therefore fall within the government's duty of protection under Article 40.

Like so many aspects of Hong Kong's traditional life, the islands and the way of life should be acknowledged as of world-heritage cultural significance, particularly as traditional Chinese life is threatened with extinction on the mainland.

Islands such as Po Toi have famous rocks such as Supine Monk and Buddha Hand. Many Hong Kong people have a reverence for rock formations that are linked with mystical, religious beliefs or ancient Chinese knowledge. The abstract geomorphic paintings of Hong Kong's Tony Ng Kwun-lun explore these concepts. The late Huang Bore's paintings of Po Toi also show scores of fishing boats and the Tin Hau temple, which must be an example of world heritage.

Millions of tourists visit Hong Kong to experience its islands and their traditional ways of life. Ironically it seems these ways were better preserved and respected under the British administration than the current government, which would prefer a bigger Disneyland.

Allan Woodley, Sydney, Australia