Drug rehabilitation school still no closer to new home after four years

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 January, 2014, 5:20am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 January, 2014, 6:49am

A remote drug rehabilitation school on Lantau Island is still no closer to finding a new home, four years after Mui Wo residents shot down its application for a vacant site in the town.

As pupils at Christian Zheng Sheng College endure cold showers in the winter and a crumbling campus, it seems the government may have no intention of granting it the site.

The empty site in Mui Wo was used by the New Territories Heung Yee Kuk Southern District Secondary School until 2007, when it was shut down because it didn't have enough pupils.

Lawmakers say government departments are passing the buck, not wanting to be involved with what would be an unpopular decision to allocate the campus to the school for drug addicts.

The campus is located in the town of Mui Wo and is ready for a new school to move in. It was seen as an ideal new location for the dilapidated Zheng Sheng, which currently occupies a ramshackle site at the southwestern end of the Chi Ma Wan peninsula - and is accessible only by a long hike or sampan ride.

But when the Home Affairs Department in 2009 conducted a consultation on the possibility of granting the site to Zheng Sheng, it was met with vehement opposition from protesting locals.

Their message was "local school for local kids" - and it was effective, with the government scrapping the consultation.

It also decided that the population of Lantau was not sufficient to reopen the public secondary school, and the whole process came to a grinding halt.

Zheng Sheng opened in 1985 as a drug addiction treatment centre, registering as a residential private secondary school in 1998.

Its facilities are rudimentary at best, with dormitories reminiscent of a decaying squat, portable toilets and makeshift classrooms. Looming over the campus are huge, loose rocks, which threaten to roll down the surrounding hillside at any moment.

The school produced its first university entrant last year, but despite that success, nothing has changed.

"We just want a proper school to study in," said 19-year-old Li Shiu-tao, who began at Zheng Sheng in 2008 after being handed a probation order of 36 months for theft and drug use.

Then, Li was one of the worst pupils at the school. Today, he is among the best. He said he wished the school had standard laboratories so that those with talent in physics, chemistry or biology could get a better education. "If the government could just give us a chance, we could set an example for other teenage drug abusers," he said.

The school is run by the Christian Zheng Sheng Association. The Narcotics Division of the Security Bureau, which provides financial support to the school, said it had been preparing to improve the remote campus, but that it had no influence over whether the school would be granted the Mui Wo site.

The Lands Department said the vacant school had been allocated to the Education Bureau.

But the bureau said it considered the site unsuitable for educational use because there were not enough local children. The bureau said it was merely managing the site until the government identified the next occupant.

Education legislator Ip Kin-yuen said the departments involved saw the empty site and the future of Zheng Sheng as a hot potato, which none of them wanted to take responsibility for.