The mainland is an alternative to country parks as a place for Hongkongers to relieve the stress of city life, a government adviser said amid debate on developing housing in some parks.
Locals should "never say never" to the idea of using country park land to build homes, said Kaizer Lau Ping-cheung, a member of the new committee advising the government on developing Lantau Island. Fellow committee member Franklin Lam Fan-keung suggested building in Lantau's parks on Sunday.
Discussion continued on an RTHK phone-in show yesterday, involving Lau, a surveyor and former lawmaker, and former Observatory chief Lam Chiu-ying.
When a caller asked Lau where locals could find space to relieve the pressures of city life if country parks were developed, he responded: "Hongkongers are free to travel to the mainland.
"Since the mainland opened up more than 30 years ago, many locals from the middle and lower classes have crossed the border for leisure, to visit relatives, to invest and conduct business or to send their children to school. Therefore, I am not too worried in this regard."
Lam Chiu-ying disagreed, saying country parks should not be built on. Instead, he proposed residential developments of 20 to 30 storeys be built in place of low-rise homes in the New Territories.
The idea of developing country park land has been debated since it was floated by Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po in his blog in September, "in the face of a shortage of land supply and a big housing demand".
Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi-pong, also convenor of a concern group on population policy, criticised Lau for failing to understand public sentiment.
"He shouldn't impose his own view on all Hongkongers," Tam said. "Locals are already seriously disturbed by the influx of mainland visitors on a daily basis, largely because of cultural differences. I don't think they want to be surrounded by more mainlanders when they want to relax."
He said the city's country parks allowed for convenient one-day visits. "You can enjoy it in the day and return home at the end of the day."
Lau and Franklin Lam were too keen on integrating the city with mainland development despite resistance from Hongkongers, Tam said.