Not in my backyard mentality is damaging Hong Kong’s development

Many community projects, be it housing or infrastructure work, are facing strong opposition from local residents, to the detriment of the wider public

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 December, 2015, 9:52pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 December, 2015, 10:04pm

Hong Kong is so used to protests that hardly a day goes by without people taking to the street for various causes. But the one that saw development chief Paul Chan Mo-po caught by angry villagers fighting a construction project in Yuen Long calls for some reflection. There seems to be growing resistance to different development plans in society, be it housing or other community projects. In question is a church and an elderly care centre run by the Evangelical Gospel Lutheran Church. The seven-storey building is said to have cleared the hurdles some 12 years ago. But when Chan arrived for a groundbreaking ceremony last Sunday, villagers hurled paper money for the dead at Chan in a show of discontent and clashed with the police.

The reasons against the construction project do not seem convincing. Villagers were worried that funeral vehicles would come in and out of the building regularly. The Christian cross to be put up on the church’s facade was also said to affect feng shui and would clash with villagers’ traditional faiths.

The villagers were desperately exhausting different ways to stop the construction from going ahead. But that they had to petition the minister in such a way also suggests they do not have valid grounds to stop the development. The project has gone through many procedural steps before work commenced. It would not have been given the green light to proceed had town planners been convinced by their arguments.

The church and home care project is just an example of how private interest can stand in the way of development for public good. Many community projects, be it housing or infrastructure work, are facing strong opposition from local residents. The reasons are diversified, sometimes out of environmental and traffic concerns. But there are also those who simply oppose because of self-interest. Elderly care service is vital in an ageing society like ours. Unless people can ditch their not-in-my-backyard mentality, development will be stalled.