Baptist University steps up fight for Chinese medicine hospital site

Vice-chancellor says government can build a special school somewhere else as planners consider future use of coveted Kowloon Tong site

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 March, 2014, 12:47pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2014, 3:15am

Baptist University's vice-chancellor says the government should look elsewhere to build a special school as the college steps up its fight to secure a site for its planned Chinese medicine teaching hospital.

Professor Albert Chan Sun-chi was speaking as the Town Planning Board began a six-day hearing on the use of a 0.88 hectare patch of the former Lee Wai Lee Campus in Kowloon Tong.

The government had originally wanted to rezone the site for residential use, but withdrew it from this year's land-sale programme last month and suggested it could be used to build a school for children with special needs.

About 200 staff, students and alumni rallied at the North Point Government Offices, where the meeting is taking place. They displayed posters in the building's lobby in support of the university's plan to build the city's first Chinese medicine teaching hospital on the site.

The board heard from 30 members of the university delegation on the first of five days of open hearings. The speakers included Chan and other senior managers and academics, as well as students and alumni. Local community representatives also spoke out in favour of the hospital and against housing.

The former Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education campus is one of scores of sites the government applied to rezone from government, institutional and community use to housing as part of a drive to ease the city's housing problems. Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po made a U-turn on putting the site up for auction last month and submitted a new proposal for the site as part of a wider zoning plan for Kowloon Tong.

The university has been allocated the 0.64 hectare northern edge of the campus to build student accommodation and a teaching block.

Speaking at the hearing yesterday, Professor Chan said he welcomed the decision not to use the southern strip for luxury flats and urged officials to allocate the whole site to the university.

"I think, at this moment, based on our understanding and based on all the information we have on hand, having a Chinese [medicine] teaching hospital is a very, very good way to use this piece of land," Chan told reporters after the meeting.

"There are many other places suitable for special schools. But for Baptist University, expansion here would be much more efficient than anywhere else. Even if the government gives us a site of double its area in Yuen Long, it would not be of good use to us," he said.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced in his January policy address that a traditional Chinese medicine hospital would be built in Tseung Kwan O.

Chan, who has threatened to quit if the university does not get the site, said the door was open for talks with the administration. Asked whether the university would continue to object if the government confirmed its plans for a special school, he added: "We will communicate with the Education Bureau first. If the best proposal is put forward, then we have no reason to object."

Kowloon City District councillor Joseph Ho Hin-ming, who also spoke at the meeting as part of the delegation, said the Kowloon Tong area lacked community facilities and that university development would be more useful than luxury flats to the neighbourhood.

More than 28,000 people wrote to the board to object to the change of use.

The board is expected to hear from 80 people during the five days of open hearings, which continue today.

The final day of the meeting, slated for March 26, will see members discuss their decision behind closed doors.