Town Planning Board no lapdog

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 April, 2013, 2:25am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 April, 2013, 3:03am


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To a certain extent I share the view expressed by Alex Lo in his column  ("Planning watchdog on a tight leash", April 17).

When I listened to the Town Planning Board discussion on the rezoning of the site of the former Lee Wai Lee campus, on January 25, I found that despite many board members having great reservations about the rezoning from government, institution and community (GIC) to residential use, the decision by the chairman in the end was nevertheless to proceed with a public consultation, without seeking a vote by the members in attendance.

However, I am not as pessimistic as Lo, and have my reservations about his view that the board is a watchdog or lapdog of the government.

This is based on my deep belief that Hong Kong is still a democratic society. I returned  here to work in 1999 only because I believe  the city is going to maintain the well-established democratic system, which differs from the system on the mainland.

Over the last 14 years I have observed that, by and large, our democratic systems are working well when it comes to monitoring the operations of the government. With regard to the Lee Wai Lee campus, public opinion is overwhelmingly against rezoning. Kowloon City District Council and  the Legislative Council's education panel have also opposed the plan. Baptist University estimates that at least 25,000 letters were sent by the public, during the consultation period, expressing opposition to the rezoning.

Given these strong objections, which are unprecedented, in my view, I do not see how the board could ignore public opinion and pass the rezoning motion.
After all, the board is entrusted with the responsibility to ensure good city planning, and is composed of many professionals and specialists. I do not believe they are rubber stamps or  lapdogs  of the government.

They are not just answerable to the chief executive, but also to the people of Hong Kong. If this turns out not to be the case, then I will have to express strong disappointment in the system. This would lead me to join the July 1 demonstration or even consider leaving Hong Kong in the near future. 

I do not want to see "one country, two systems" unravel, and witness our education system and the prospects for future generations being compromised by bad planning decisions. 

H. Q. Zhang, Lai Chi Kok