• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 9:27pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 September, 2013, 12:21am

Public services dumped on the sidelines

BIO

Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.
 

Not all new parents are equal. Suppose you live on Hong Kong Island and need to get a birth entry certificate for your child. Well, you can easily do that at the government building in Admiralty and then have a nice lunch in an upmarket mall or stroll through one of the city's nicest parks.

But, as a reader has complained, if you have to get it through the Kowloon Births Registry in Yau Ma Tei, you will have the privilege of walking past a garbage collection depot with big smelly trucks coming in and out of the area at regular intervals. Across the street is a recycling point. Don't take your kid with you if you can avoid it. Now I am not too fussed about the inconvenience of getting a birth entry certificate in Kowloon. But this is a symptom of a larger problem. More and more government and social services are located in undesirable, inaccessible and sometimes downright disgusting places. Why?

There is a simple explanation for that. Officials have, in recent years, ridden roughshod over the use of land zoned for government, institution or community (GIC). The old policy is that land zoned as such provides much needed community services in each district, especially in poor neighbourhoods. They were zoned so adequate social services as well as recreational facilities such as parks can be provided to neighbours.

Officials now routinely ignore GIC requirements and government departments often count themselves as meeting requirements even if inadequate services are provided. As substitutes, churches and religious groups are often encouraged to take over existing public facilities if they can offer such services.

The trend of undermining GIC looks set to accelerate under Leung Chun-ying, whose idée fixe of appropriating more and more land, regardless of zoning rules, to provide for housing is only making things worse.

His government is targeting dozens of GIC sites for rezoning so the chief executive may find enough land. After all, an obedient Town Planning Board, which is more lapdog than watchdog, will oblige in most cases. But such thoughtless zoning conversions ignore community needs and deprive neighbours of public facilities and support that make life easier and more pleasant.

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This article is now closed to comments

johnyuan
If I were the editor, I will not pick this picture of Leung with a halo-like around his head. The religious imagery connotation that most Hong Kong people can identify with makes one wonders what message is imbedded and intended. It is a distraction from the text. Besides, I think this picture looks ugly.
johnyuan
Any disgusting place exists in city is because it is poorly designed, and maintained. A garbage collection or a recycling center is no exception. It is so easy to mistreat these places thinking because they are handling garbage. There is no other practical way other than design (provide air conditioning in summer) these depots and run them properly. They are part of city living and must be located near us. There should also be a rule that hood on garbage truck should be closed shut when running in the streets.  
impala
First, the silly reader complaint. The Kowloon Government Offices where the Kowloon Birth Registry is located are bang on Nathan Road, with dozens of buses stopping nearby, and Yau Ma Tei MTR Station just two blocks away. It is certainly not inaccessible, and while not pretty, I would not consider Nathan Road 'downright disgusting' either. Anybody who does is going to have a really tough time living in Hong Kong.

I am sure there is a garbage collection point somewhere nearby too, of course there is. This is central Kowloon, one of the most densely populated square miles in the world. When the reader in question took up residency in YTM district, perhaps he should have taken things like this into consideration. What did he expect? Tree-lined avenues and fountains?

And indeed, there is ZERO need to take your newborn along for birth registration. So garbage collection point or not, why anybody would want to take a newly born infant for an unnecessary trip out of the home is a mystery to me. We can safely conclude that the reader-turned-whiner in question is a moron of epic proportions and can safely be ignored.

And as for Mr Lo's overarching argument: those government offices have been there for decades, so to say that their location is part of a some kind of recent trend is just laughable. Unless he can actually cite some examples that do demonstrate this alleged trend, it would seem that Mr Lo is just pulling blabla out of his behind, as usual.
stephaniek
i in fact thought hes wearing this thing at first glance....lol
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