No smooth sailing for private boat plan
Lawmakers expressed concerns about smuggling, marine damage and an increase in pregnant mainlanders coming to Hong Kong if a cross-border sailing scheme for private vessels is implemented.
Discussing the scheme at a finance committee meeting yesterday, legislators said they expected the government to consult Legco before the plan would be rolled out.
The administration is studying the feasibility of a cross-border sailing scheme first suggested by the Guangdong government last year, the transport and housing chief told the Legislative Council.
This follows confirmation last month of a plan to allow more private cars from Hong Kong and the mainland to cross the border, which has not proved popular and triggered a 1,500-strong street protest.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng told the finance committee that the cross-border sailing scheme was still at a 'very preliminary' stage, after a Chinese newspaper reported that officials from both sides of the border would start discussing the plan soon.
'To my understanding, we first heard of the plan in the end of last year,' she said. 'We haven't even talked about the related policies.'
Director of Marine Francis Liu Hon-por said the Guangdong government first suggested the scheme, and had agreed to examine any technical issues before deciding whether it would go ahead.
Lawmakers expressed concern about possible smuggling and damage to the marine environment should the scheme be implemented.
Wong Kwok-hing of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions said he was worried more pregnant mainland mothers, not registered in hospital, would make use of the cross-border driving and sailing schemes to give birth in Hong Kong.
Civic Party's Tanya Chan called for a public consultation before the government decided whether the scheme would be introduced.
Cheng said the government would listen to views from various groups before making a decision.
The first phase of the cross-border driving scheme would allow up to 50 Hong Kong cars a day to travel to Guangdong and stay for up to a week. A second phase of the scheme would see mainland-registered cars allowed to drive to Hong Kong. The plan requires Legco approval.
The length in feet of a private yacht valued at US$27 million, believed to be the largest in China, built last year in Zhongshan, Guangdong