The government's bid to extend the Tseung Kwan O landfill looks set to fail today after the biggest party in the legislature last night decided not to back it.
It stands a higher chance of securing approval for its Tuen Mun and Ta Kwu Ling extension plans when the Legislative Council public works subcommittee votes today on the application.
The pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), which holds seven votes on the subcommittee, said it opposed the Tseung Kwan O plan after the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), with three votes, made clear yesterday it would vote against the Tseung Kwan O and Tuen Mun applications.
The FTU had emerged dissatisfied from a meeting last night with Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who was making a last-ditch effort to garner support for the three plans.
FTU lawmaker Alice Mak Mei-kuen said the government lacked concrete measures to boost the recycling industry despite its "heartfelt sincerity".
Both the DAB and FTU said they would support the Tseung Kwan O move only when the government brought in compensatory measures - including subsidising 300 rubbish truck operators to install anti-leakage devices and extra covers. It would mean the government would face months of delay.
Earlier, 11 members of the subcommittee said they would vote against the proposal, and seven would back it.
Outside Legco, protesters from Tseung Kwan O and Tuen Mun staged a hunger strike in protest over the plans.
Independent lawmaker Dr Leung Ka-lau said he would decide how to vote during today's meeting. He said: "Landfills are necessary, as we don't have other facilities to manage waste."
The administration is seeking support to extend the city's three landfills - in Tseung Kwan O, Tuen Mun and Ta Kwu Ling. The Tseung Kwan O plan has run into the most determined opposition as it is close to a residential area.
Sai Kung district councillor Christine Fong Kwok-shan started the hunger strike with six other people on Monday morning, planning to end it after the vote, about 48 hours later.
The government still has a slim chance of pushing its proposal through to the finance committee, and Fong said she would support a filibuster if it gets that far. "If it goes ahead, residents will take tougher action," she said. "If they decide to use their cars to block the road, that's not something I can control."
Tuen Mun district councillor Josephine Chan Shu-ying and her colleagues in the Democratic Party also staged a hunger strike starting yesterday morning. One shaved his head in protest. "We Tuen Mun residents have sacrificed too much," she said, referring to the district's many undesirable facilities, including its landfill, sludge treatment plant and power plant.
"We account for only 8 per cent of Hong Kong's population. It's unreasonable that 80 per cent of [the city's] waste is dumped here."
The government plans to seek about HK$9 billion to expand the Tseung Kwan O and Ta Kwu Ling landfills by 13 and 70 hectares, respectively. Another HK$35 million will be sought for a feasibility study for a 200-hectare Tuen Mun landfill extension, which would cost HK$9 billion to build. It expects the Tseung Kwan O landfill to reach capacity in 2015.
Additional reporting by Olga Wong