Officials blamed for Greenpeace ship delay

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 January, 2011, 12:00am

Greenpeace has accused the Hong Kong government of obstructing its application for a berth for its flagship Rainbow Warrior II, which is due to visit the city in two weeks on her farewell voyage.

The environmental group said formal approval had not yet been secured from the Environmental Protection Department despite more than two months of processing.

The ship, which is now visiting Taiwan, is due to be in Hong Kong for about three weeks for a series of educational campaigns and activities to promote environmental protection - as part of its farewell voyage after 21 years of service on the high seas. Greenpeace said it had applied to the Government Property Agency in November for a licence for a berth at a public pier in Central. Various government units consulted by the agency said they had 'no objection in principle' to the licence, Greenpeace said it had been told.

But, according to government internal guidelines, the agency still needs to secure a 'positive approval' from another government department before a licence can be granted.

Greenpeace campaigner Gloria Chang Wan-ki said: 'We learned the agency has asked the Environmental Protection Department for formal approval, but there has not been any word from the department so far.

'The department is supposed to encourage and facilitate green activities - and Greenpeace is a world-known environmental group. We do not understand why the department has taken so long,' she said.

Senior officials from the Environment Bureau had declined invitations to attend the welcoming ceremony or guided tours of the ship during its stay in Hong Kong, she said.

'We appreciate that they are busy people. But it is a bit strange that not even one of them can be available,' Chang added.

The green group, known for its eye-catching protests, embarrassed Donald Tsang Yam-kuen by hanging a huge 'wanted' banner emblazoned with his face on a government offices building in Central, saying the chief executive was a 'climate fugitive', as he had failed to launch any policy to combat climate change. In November, activists from the group hung a huge anti-nuclear power banner on the Convention and Exhibition Centre, where Tsang was hosting an environmental meeting.

A government spokesman said: 'The application is being processed in accordance with established procedures.' An Environment Bureau spokeswoman said no political considerations were involved: 'Regarding the application, the bureau has no objection to it.'

Red tape marred the ship's 2005 visit, when it took 38 days to secure a Central berth. Its Hong Kong visit is set for February 7-27.