Hong Kong government study on building housing in country parks ‘biased’, former senior official says

Wong Fook-yee argues other sites should be considered before using protected land

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 May, 2017, 3:09pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 May, 2017, 12:26am

The government’s study on building homes in country parks is biased because the Housing Society is conducting it, according to a former senior official.

Wong Fook-yee, who was assistant director at the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, also said there were other sites the city should consider first, “including those belonging to private companies”.

Legal barrier looms over plan to build on edges of country parks

As was proposed in the chief executive’s last policy address, the Housing Society – a statutory, non-profit-making body which provides housing for low- and middle-income families – has been asked to conduct an 18-month review on whether to build public flats and homes for the elderly on two 20-hectare sites on the edges of the Tai Lam and Ma On Shan country parks.

Wong questioned the neutrality of the study.

“I don’t have any expectations of this study,” said Wong, now an adjunct professor of geography at Chinese University.

“This arrangement is biased. Because it is done by an organisation whose job is to build housing, and it is not an organisation that does environmental issues.”

Experts call for timetable to protect 19 enclaves and fold them into country parks

Wong, speaking on a radio programme, said country parks were not the reason for the city’s housing shortage and flatly rejected the argument that “if your home is too small, it is the fault of the country park”.

He admitted that in exceptional circumstances, country park land could be considered for other uses, including housing.

“But there are many other lands that should be used well before country parks, including those belonging to private companies.”

Wong said the parks serve an important function, balancing urban areas and natural ones, and that the danger of starting to build houses in such areas was that “it sets a precedent”.

Wong also recommended that Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor visit Shing Mun Country Park and see for herself the balance between land and water. “The walk only takes two and a half hours,” he said.