The Transport Department's plan for an underground car park in the middle of Stanley appears to have hit a speed bump. The department has belatedly noticed after spending considerable time and effort on planning the project that opponents exceed supporters. This is despite holding the vote in August when many Stanley residents were away on holiday.
But there seems to have been some reluctance on the department's part to produce exact numbers at the Southern District Council, which discussed the matter last month. The minutes of the council meeting record the department's representative as saying: "We will try to understand the objections to the proposal and will carry on our work on this subject." Elsewhere, the representative says: "The reasons for opposition include concerns about traffic and the environment and safety issues."
What other reasons could there be? The root problem, of course, is that this is an absurd project that only benefits those with land and shops near the centre of Stanley. It is madness to propose building a car park, which the department says will take 40 months, in the most congested part of Stanley. The most obvious place for a car park is on the piece of government land on Carmel Road behind Stanley Plaza, which is used as a temporary car park at weekends. But this land is not controlled by the department.
Meanwhile, the department has received a smack on the wrist from the Ombudsman in upholding a complaint by the Stanley Residents Concern Group. It had refused the group's request for disclosure of any traffic studies or assessments, even though it had repeatedly referred to such assessments in meetings with the district council. The Ombudsman found that the department failed to respond in a timely manner. It then dabbled in what can only be called bureaucratic speciousness, claiming the group had asked to see a "traffic study", whereas it says it had only conducted a "traffic assessment".
So according to the Ombudsman's letter, "[the department] considered the 'traffic study' requested by the [concern group] to be non-existent and that it had acted in accordance with paragraph 1.14 of the Code on Access to information which does not oblige departments to create a record not in existence". The Ombudsman essentially said the department had been evasive.
We notice that the protest for democracy is causing some inconvenience to those accustomed to parking illegally in Central. Deprived of their favourite spots, the vehicular occupiers have been forced elsewhere. Our picture shows a couple of cars brazenly parked on the pavement outside the West Wing of the former government offices on Lower Albert Road. This is because the parking spaces on Upper Albert Road that runs behind Government House have been full since the occupation started. We notice the return of double and triple parking outside Fook Lam Moon in Wan Chai.
The word "illegal" has been bandied about a lot lately and has attracted a lot of police attention. But illegal parking attracts hardly any.
Despite the concern over disruption by the umbrella movement, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre has managed to hold a sellout Arbitration Week with half of the 350 delegates coming from overseas.
The centre's vice-chairman John Budge said arbitration in Hong Kong was "a great success story" and the Hong Kong centre was one of the busiest in Asia, handling hundreds of cases every year.
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