People's Liberation Army

Lawyer says open space not needed for PLA berth

Harbour-protection group ready to challenge government if public land is annexed for use

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 May, 2013, 5:05am

There is no need to reserve open space for a military berth on the new Central waterfront - bollards are all that is needed, counsel for a harbour-protection group says.

Anthony Neoh SC gave the view in a legal opinion as the Society for Protection of the Harbour pledged to launch a judicial review if the government went ahead with plans to rezone land for the berth.

As a berthing facility with bollards has already been constructed, that will clearly be sufficient for docking military vessels

"As a berthing facility with bollards has already been constructed, that will clearly be sufficient for docking military vessels, thus zoning 30,000 sq ft of land and depriving the community of this amount of open space in a prime scenic area is clearly not for the benefit of the community," Neoh said.

The society is preparing a legal challenge against the government's proposal to rezone a 0.3 hectare strip of land from open space to military use for the People's Liberation Army. The government has started building four one-storey buildings there.

"If the Town Planning Board approves the rezoning, the society will definitely seek a judicial review against its decision," said Winston Chu Ka-sun, adviser to the society. "We are attacking the government, not the PLA."

The board, which is expected to hold a hearing in a few weeks, has received thousands of submissions against the rezoning. The Legco development panel will discuss the issue on Tuesday.

In his seven-page opinion, Neoh says the obligations under a 1994 Sino-British agreement in relation to the military dock are to be performed by the pre-1997 Hong Kong government, as the Chinese text indicated. He says there are no residual obligations after July 1997.

"The HKSAR's insistence that it is complying with an international obligation is therefore simply a misconception of the nature of the [agreement] and its own constitutional status."

The treaty said the Hong Kong government "will leave free 150 metres of the eventual permanent waterfront in the plans for the Central and Wan Chai Reclamation … for the construction of a military dock after 1997".

Even if the government still wanted to provide the dock, Neoh said the accent of the deal was on the sea frontage, not the use of land on shore.

The government maintained the 1994 deal was binding and the PLA agreed to allow access to the berth when it was not being used.