Green light for New Territories mosque
Years of effort pay off as change to plans eases locals' concerns
The 7,000 Muslims who live in the New Territories are finally to get a mosque - in a six-storey, $100 million development on a 20,000 sq ft site in Sheung Shui.
After battling for years and tailoring their plans to assuage the concerns of other residents, officials have granted permission to build the place of worship. The mosque - to be built using money raised by the Muslim community - will be located next to Tsui Lai Gardens and is due for completion in 2007 or 2008.
It will take up two floors of the complex. The development will also encompass a home for 200 old people, a clinic, and an English-medium secondary school.
Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Stephen Fisher said yesterday the Muslims had overcome much resistance in the area.
In past years, residents have cited design, traffic disruption, noise and even fung shui concerns as reasons for not building a mosque.
'The main concern is fung shui. The residents thought some pillar structures looked like incense. Now, these structures will be shortened,' Mr Fisher said.
'They were also afraid that the worshipping ceremony would bring noise, but the Muslims promised not to use amplifiers.'
Mr Fisher said the government recognised the need for the mosque.
'We understand that many more ethnic minorities are living in the New Territories' public estates. There are five mosques in Hong Kong but all [are] on Hong Kong Island and [in] Kowloon.'
He said the government also found the proposal acceptable because part of it was for social service facilities, meaning the site was not granted exclusively to Muslims.
The details of the land premium payable would be finalised later.
Mohamed Allidin, chairman of the United Muslim Association of Hong Kong, said they had been fighting for the site since 2000.
Mr Allidin said the Muslim community would shoulder all construction costs but required the administrative support of related government departments.
He said the Lands Department was about to grant a letter of intent confirming the lease. Fund-raising efforts in Middle Eastern countries would start right away.
Meanwhile, Secretary for Home Affairs Bureau Patrick Ho Chi-ping is to organise activities aimed at enhancing racial harmony in areas where ethnic minorities normally gather.
The first one, Culture in Motion - the Philippines, will take place in Statue Square, Central, and include folk dance, art, a photo exhibition, and a performance by local singer Teresa Carpio, who has a Filipino father. The bureau will seek to organise similar functions for the Indonesian, Thai, Pakistani and Nepali communities.