Officials seeking to redevelop the Yau Ma Tei Theatre came under fire yesterday for proposing to keep a rubbish collection point next to a street sleepers' shelter when the two are moved.
Both facilities share a building next to the theatre on Shanghai Street and current plans are to move them together to a new site in 2016.
But lawmakers, describing the plan as inhumane and unacceptable, voted down a request from the Home Affairs Bureau to pass the plan to the Legislative Council's works and finance subcommittees for discussion.
Undersecretary for Home Affairs Florence Hui Hiu-fai, said it was a "historical coincidence" that the shelter and the rubbish point were put together.
Questioned by education constituency lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, Hui acknowledged the difficulty in finding an alternate site for the street sleepers.
She also said removing the two facilities would help "create a better cultural ambience" for the theatre - a remark that brought on swift criticism.
"I can't see how a refuse collection point created ambience for the street sleepers," Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said.
Hui said the new rubbish site would have better air-purifying equipment.
But super seat lawmaker Chan Yuen-han, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said it was still "a very wrong decision".
"However beautiful a refuse point might be, it's still a refuse point," she said.
Tang Moon-yiu of the Street Sleepers' Shelter Society, which operates the 70-bed shelter, said the new site, while not the best, was "acceptable in principle".
"After all, ours is an unwelcome facility," he told the South China Morning Post.