Nearly half of Shenzhen's lawmakers have signed a petition against Hong Kong's proposed Tuen Mun landfill expansion - an unprecedented protest that could strain cross-border ties.
Shenzhen Municipal People's Congress deputy Yang Qin , a leading opponent of the landfill expansion, said yesterday that almost 200 of the city's 404 lawmakers had backed the call for Hong Kong to reconsider the project and any others like it along the border.
Another 200 district-level representatives, dozens of influential industrial associations and more than a million Shenzhen residents have joined the campaign since a fire at the landfill in November sent noxious smoke wafting north of the border.
"It would be the biggest public awareness campaign of its kind ever, with so many local lawmakers joining the petition," said Yang. "The Hong Kong government should treat our voices very seriously. If it continues to ignore Shenzhen's concerns, such a policy can result only in lifting a rock to drop it on your own toes."
Yang predicted most of the remaining lawmakers would sign up in time for the annual sessions of the people's congress and the city's political advisory body next week, at which the landfill project could be a big topic of discussion.
The Shenzhen campaign represents a turnabout in the regional environmental debate, in which Hongkongers have long complained about pollution drifting over from the mainland.
The Tuen Mun project would cost HK$9 billion and double the near-capacity landfill to 400 hectares. It is one of three expansions proposed by the Hong Kong government until a planned rubbish incinerator is built.
A spokesman for the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department promised to share the results of its environmental assessments with Shenzhen.
"We have conducted stringent environmental impact studies and found there would not be any undesirable impacts on health or environment within Hong Kong and we believe the impacts would be even less across the border," he said.
Cross-border opposition to the Tuen Mun project took off after the fire, which was followed by complaints of foul smells of burning trash in the Futian, Luohu and Nanshan districts.
Peng Peng , a political scientist at the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences, said it was too early to say whether the controversy would damage relations.
"Not only Shenzhen residents, but Hong Kong residents too, are against the landfill expansion. I think the governments will find ways to co-operate with each other on this issue."
Additional reporting by Cheung Chi-fai