Switch to 'military use' not in treaty

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 May, 2013, 3:06am

The government recently dropped a bombshell in suddenly announcing that a large piece of land at a most vital and sensitive location of our new Central harbourfront will be rezoned from public "open space" to "military use" for the People's Liberation Army.

This is in direct breach of the repeated promises by the government over the past dozen years to give Hong Kong a permanent open continuous promenade as part of a "world-class Central harbourfront".

The government's only justification is compliance with a treaty signed in 1994 between the Chinese and British governments.

However, the SAR administration is mistaken. While the treaty clearly provided that 14 sites were needed and had to be handed over to the PLA for the defence of Hong Kong, this site was not one of them.

The treaty only provided that: "150 metres of the permanent waterfront near the Prince of Wales Barracks to be kept free for the construction of a military dock".

Thus the treaty only created a berthing right over water at the Central harbourfront and not any right for the PLA to own or occupy any harbourfront land.

The clear intention was that visiting PLA warships would have the right and facilities to berth there for occasional social and ceremonial visits which do not need the site to be permanently handed over to the PLA.

To comply with the treaty, this military dock for berthing PLA warships has already been constructed and is duly shown on seven outline zoning plans adopted by the Town Planning Board over many years. Therefore, no rezoning or change is necessary.

The present new "military use" zoning means that the site can only be used for military purposes by the PLA and any other use including the promised use as a public waterfront promenade would be unlawful.

Thus at one stroke, officials have - broken the government's solemn promises to the public; acted contrary to an international treaty; let Hong Kong people down by giving up an environmental treasure belonging to our present and future generations; and unnecessarily stirred up ill feeling and conflict between the PLA and Hong Kong people.

Being genuinely concerned with the welfare of Hong Kong, Society for Protection of the Harbour strongly urges the public to respect, support and appreciate the important role of the PLA in defending Hong Kong and not to overreact over the mistakes of some officials regarding this matter.

Winston K. S. Chu, adviser, Society for Protection of the Harbour



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