Competition hots up for vacant Lantau school site

Drug rehab college now facing battle with two schools for ethnic minority children to use Mui Wo campus closed in 2007 by the government

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

Two new contenders have emerged in the protracted tussle over a school site in Mui Wo, on Lantau Island, which has lain idle for six years.

A rundown drug rehabilitation school in remote southeastern Lantau has been trying to secure the site for at least four years, against the wishes of locals.

But the Sunday Morning Post has learned that it now faces competition from two direct subsidy schools for ethnic minority children.

A district councillor based on Lantau has confirmed that two DSS schools have been in discussions with the council and the rural committee about applying for the site.

The campus was home to the New Territories Heung Yee Kuk Southern District Secondary School until 2007, when the government closed it down because of falling enrolments.

The two DSS schools have received strong support from both the council and the committee, said Islands District councillor Wong Fuk-kan, adding they were working on proposals to submit to the government.

There are four DSS schools for ethnic minorities in the city.

Of those, Buddhist Fat Ho Memorial College in Tai O, western Lantau, confirmed it had been in talks with parties including the government to apply for the site.

Pak Kau College, in Tin Shui Wai, denied it had been involved in any such application.

Delia Memorial School, which has three campuses across the city, said it had not had any discussions about a new site, although it was looking for one and would consider Mui Wo.

St Margaret's Girls' College, in Central, did not reply to the Post's request for comment.

Wong said local children, and those from southern Lantau and nearby Peng Chau, would benefit from a secondary school in Mui Wo.

"These children are travelling a long way and crossing districts to go to school," he said. "We need a secondary school here."

Backing for the DSS schools is a blow for Christian Zheng Sheng College, and its four-year campaign for the site. Located on the remote Chi Ma Wan peninsula, the private school doubles as a residential rehabilitation centre for teenage drug users. The school has fallen into disrepair, and it says moving to the Mui Wo premises would be an ideal way to upgrade its facilities.

But many Mui Wo residents are against the move, saying they don't want drug addicts in their midst - and that local children should be given priority. They reacted angrily to a government consultation in 2009 on whether the site should go to Zheng Sheng, with about 200 people staging a protest.

The consultation collapsed and the school has remained vacant ever since.

Zheng Sheng principal Alman Chan Siu-cheuk said he had not heard about any competition for the site, and would discuss the next move with the Security Bureau's Narcotics Division, which had been supporting the school.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said although it was important to support ethnic minority education, Zheng Sheng's case was more urgent, as it lacked transport and its shabby campus was threatened by unstable hillside rocks.

The Planning Department would not comment on whether it might apply to use the site, which is not covered by the government's statutory plans.