More than 50 additional Shenzhen lawmakers signed a petition against a proposed Hong Kong landfill expansion yesterday, after learning that Shenzhen Mayor Xu Qin raised concerns about the project to Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last year.
The lawmakers joined about 200 Shenzhen Municipal People's Congress deputies who have already publicly expressed opposition to the Tuen Mun project. Their addition at the annual meeting of the congress yesterday means over half of the city's 404 lawmakers have signed the petition. "Everyone I met would like to sign up except those who were absent," said Shenzhen lawmaker Yang Qin, a leading opponent of the landfill expansion.
Yang launched the petition in November, after a fire at the landfill sent noxious smoke wafting north of the border. Yang hopes to get signatures from all the remaining lawmakers in the next two days of meetings.
Yang lobbied representatives at a panel meeting yesterday, citing Lam's pledge to continue with the project despite apologising for the November 8 fire.
Yang said Xu and Lam reached an agreement on November 25, when they met in Hong Kong, to set up a joint team to investigate the fire and its impact on Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
A source close to the Shenzhen government said Xu personally raised the concerns to Lam because of the pressure Shenzhen faced. "The Shenzhen government is also facing tremendous pressure," the source said. "Many delegates of the Shenzhen people's congress have collectively raised the issue.
"The Shenzhen government cannot ignore their voice. In today's China, if you don't listen to people's grievances and demands, they may take to the streets to express themselves and it will get out of control."
It was the first time in the source's memory that a Shenzhen mayor had taken issue with Hong Kong policy.
Yang said Xu also raised Shenzhen's concerns during a January 14 meeting with senior Hong Kong officials in Shenzhen. "Now their response is, 'It [the fire] is our fault but we won't change our mind [about the expansion plan]'," Yang told lawmakers.
Yang said there had been no progress in setting up the joint meeting to investigate the impact of the fire.
In addition to lawmakers, the petition has been signed by 200 district-level representatives, dozens of influential industrial associations and more than a million Shenzhen residents. It would be the biggest public awareness campaign of its kind ever on the mainland.
Yang said they would also show the signatures to the central government at gatherings of the National People's Congress and political advisory bodies in March.
A spokesman for the chief secretary would not comment yesterday on whether officials from the two sides had met on landfill issues, saying it was not appropriate to disclose Lam's schedule.
Additional reporting by Cheung Chi-fai