• Fri
  • Aug 22, 2014
  • Updated: 9:48pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 September, 2013, 3:39am

Paul Chan put his foot in it by suggesting country park homes

Paul Chan Mo-po is so gaffe-prone it's a wonder his boss the chief executive has not imposed a public communication ban on him. The development secretary has done it again, this time saying that Hong Kong should consider building flats in country parks to boost land supply.

Almost as soon as he pressed "send" to post his hare-brained scheme on his blog, his counterpart at the Environment Bureau, Wong Kam-sing, rushed in to clarify that there is absolutely no such plan. Chan's public relations minders also jumped in, saying the idea was only for public discussion. Well, he certainly got everyone all hot and bothered.

One person described as being "close to the government" - that is, someone quite senior in the government but quite gutless to speak on record - said Chan's idea was just "a political gesture ... to test the water".

A spokesman for his bureau said: "Those views do not represent the government's stance."

So now, a minister speaking or blogging in public does not necessarily represent the government and may be only thinking out loud. Still, I am relieved that the government does not want to build on country parks, which account for 40 per cent of Hong Kong's land - not 70 per cent as Chan wrote - and are rightly described as the city's lungs. Unlike some critics, I entertain no conspiracy theory on this one. Chan is so policy-challenged that he is very likely to be speaking, or rather writing, off the top of his head. It's not the first time.

Early this year, Chan told lawmakers his bureau was eyeing some People's Liberation Army barracks to ease the acute housing shortage. Legislator and former security chief Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee took pity on him and advised him not to "comment if he is not familiar with the background", like having to seek approval from the central government and the Central Military Commission to take back any barracks.

The administration of Leung Chun-ying may be inept. But being besieged on all sides and with a democratic reform fight ahead, even Leung must know that developing country parks, the taboo of social taboos in Hong Kong, would make the row over national education child's play.

Our parks are safe - for now.

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caractacus
Alex, WAKE UP. The country parks are NOT safe. The villages are already under fearsome assault by developers and house applications by absentee indigenous villagers, because of the residential property price boom. This is happening NOW.
Government Departments and Town Planning Board are colluding with developers, villagers and the Heung Yee **** to approve developments on an unprecedented scale. In Hoi Ha the Town Planning Department has made public a draft Outline Zoning Plan (OZP) which extends the village zone and creates a "Green Belt" zone along the ecologically important stream to the West of the village where building can be approved in future. Ironically and suspiciously, 95% of the private agricultural land plots in the extended V Zone and in much of the Green Belt (where applications to build houses can be approved) have been bought from villagers by development companies for an aggregate of over $40m. After building permission is granted by TPB the money will be pocketed by the villagers, then they and their relatives will apply for a grant of free government land in the village to build houses. In Sai Kung Country Park alone there are planned developments which will triple or quadruple the number of houses.
The Small House Policy is by far the biggest driving force behind environmental destruction and corruption in the NT.
SpeakFreely
Alex, why building in parks is a taboo? I said before I'm a hiker and love outdoor, but I'm willing to scarify some parks to help those living in shoes boxes, subdivided flats or cage home. We middle class are too selfish, you and Tom probably live in mid level in a comfortable condo and enjoy going to park one or few time a year, but those poor working class can't even afford the time and transportation to go to the park. That is a taboo! Taboo of making those working poor works as slave for the middle class and the wealthier.
Why Singapore can convert parks to make people live bigger space and Hk can't? Singapore has much better air quality than Hk.
dascaldasf
You should be asking why are there just a handful of people playing golf in hectares of land that could be redeveloped for public housing instead of bulldozing trees, destroying wildlife and their habitats for their sake. I'm not sure that you love outdoors even when you claim to be. An outdoorsman would not want to run around buildings and in heavy traffic. I am a middle class person but I am not an envious person nor do I disrespect those that are less fortunate than I. Yet, I am not content with the way things are being run by the administration. Your comparison with Singapore to HK is arguable - 20 years ago. Their neighbours pollute the air. Here, we have our brothers in the north to thank.
SpeakFreely
Honestly I'm ashamed of myself being a middle class asking the poor to scarify for us. I'm ashamed of HK having so many people living in shoe boxes, subdivided flats, and even coffin home. I would be ashamed if I insist to have these parks and scarifying these poor people. In fact not just poor people, I know professionals family of 4 plus maid living in 500 to 700 sq ft apartment. This is really bad. Hk people deserve a bigger space not just a Shelter. Look at Singapore. They did it right. Hk will never change as we are just interested in arguing and do nothing. These parks were build by the privileged British years ago when HK has less than 1m population but now we have 7m plus. Time to rethink. Either cut down the population or increase land supply. Need some changes.
caractacus
Use your brain. You are right about the poor and people living in shoe boxes, but destroying the Country Parks (which belong to ALL HK people) is not the answer. There is plenty of land in the existing developed areas - brownfield sites, old buildings of just a few storeys and open spaces which can more than supply the housing need. The evil is not the Country Parks, it is the grossly unequal social system whereby property developers and tycoons rig the rule the roost with the connivance of the government.
kctony
You have touched the right note on cutting down the population. Come to think of it.
1) Hong Kong is surrounded by water on 3 sides. Not much room left.
2) Landfill is already reaching maxim capacity.
3) Pollution is already uncontrollable. Recently HK released a projection of 3,000 deaths per year on respiratory diseases. If 3,000 die, think how many are sick.
4) Transit system is stretched.
5) Can Hong Kong afford its aging population and medical cost?
Since 1997, over 800,000 have immgrated from the mainland. Can Hong Kong afford another million in 20 years (not counting those born by the immigrants)? They are mainly unskilled and have competed with the local Hongkongers.
Hong Kong is losing its quality and way of life fast in the name of development.
Who actually benefits by all these developments?
4.
the sun also rises
taking back barracks of the PLA has to get approval from the Central government and the Central Military Commission,while making use of our country parks will adversely affect our natural beauty and not to say,our breathing ground and leisure activities venue.No country parks is now more than half an hour's travelling time from any districts in the territory ! So, they can be considered as our backyard garden-------a place to stroll, jogging,barbecuing or ...No sacrifice of our country parks for building more flats to ease the shortage of housing. No !
SpeakFreely
This is exactly a Not In My Backyard mentality. Yes, nice to have a park in your backyard but what about those living poorly with little space? You are asking them to scarify for your park n leisure but they have to suffer 365 days a year! Even taking out 10% of the park won't kill u middle class? But it will help the poor a lot. Many Hk people are not going to the park every week. Some never as can't afford the time and cost. It is a luxury. Is is fair to force them to accept your luxury at their expense? Is this a true democratic society, if yes, I'm sure overt 50% people want more and need more affordable space like singapore.
 
 
 
 
 

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