Lantau development committee sees island as only real estate

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 January, 2016, 6:11pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 January, 2016, 6:10pm

As a member of the Lantau Development Advisory Committee appointed by the government to advise on “economic development opportunities on Lantau”, Lau Ping-cheung’s remark is a fine indicator of how the members think about Lantau. Since Hong Kong and south Kowloon have 3.6 million people while Lantau currently has only 110,000, there is plenty of space there (“‘Quite a bit of space’: Hong Kong development adviser who says Lantau Island is underused met with scepticism and silence”, January 11), he said. He did not point out however, with 70 per cent of Lantau located in mountainous areas and country parks, the one million planned population there will have 22,600 people per sq km in its habitable area, more than Sha Tin’s 18,000.

Looking at Mr Lau and the other committee members’ business interests and political affiliations explains why they pay lip service to conservation while going all out on development. Lantau is but a swathe of real estate to make money from.

Of the 20 members on the committee, six are members of political or economic bodies closely tied to mainland interests, such as the Consultative Committee on Economic and Trade Cooperation between Hong Kong and the Mainland, and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. One is a deputy to the National People’s Congress. On the business front, 10 have declared interests on Lantau.

The committee includes a chief executive of AsiaWorld-Expo in Lantau; a non-executive director of the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong and chairman of Lai Sun, a property developer and investor in Zhuhai’s Hengqin special economic zone; a deputy chairman at China Travel Service; a senior manager at Link Asset Management; a general manager at major developer Henderson and son-in-law of Heung Yee Kuk strongman Lau Wong-fat, whose family has extensive landholdings in Lantau. Mr Lau Ping-cheung himself is a project director at Shui On’s SOCAM Asset Management.

Committee members have visited the Pearl River Delta cities, meeting mainland officials and inspecting development zones. They have made no trips to learn about preserving natural heritage or managing tourism in places that have done it successfully.

Never mind the simple pleasures of Hong Kong residents who value Lantau for its hiking trails, beaches, forests, vegetable farms, villages and relatively fresh air. Lantau is set to be part of the Pearl River Delta development zone for mainland investors, tourists and shoppers. If Hongkongers want to escape to the countryside, they can follow Mr Lau’s priceless piece of advice: go to the mainland.

Tom Yam, Lantau