PLA land offers range of sites for housing

If the Beijing and Hong Kong governments could agree on the release of vast areas for homes, the flats crisis would be eased and everyone would benefit

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 4:23am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 4:23am

Beijing-friendly politicians often complain that the central government unfairly gets the blame for Hong Kong’s domestic problems. One of our biggest problems is surely housing.

So let’s think from a reverse perspective: what if the central government actively helps address one of Hong Kong’s problems, say housing, without being accused of interfering in local affairs?

‘PLA barracks are waste of resources and should be considered for land needs’

That, I gather, is what James Tien Pei-chun, honorary chairman of the Liberal Party, is suggesting when he proposes the People’s Liberation Army stationed in Hong Kong should consider giving up a massive but “underused” military site to help address the city’s housing woes.

The idea is nothing new, but it has been something of a taboo topic among officials and pro-government politicians. Even some pan-democrats seem to avoid this subject, having bought into the argument that defence and foreign policy relating to the city are still Beijing’s prerogatives.

But I can think of nothing more Chinese than a benevolent father providing housing to his children in need.

Clearly, there is room for discussion.

“Why can’t we ask Beijing to liaise with the PLA on releasing part of the land to Hong Kong?” he asked.

Former lawmaker wants army to hand over land for housing

He is referring to the Tsing Shan firing range across the Tuen Mun and Yuen Long region, which alone accounts for more than 80 per cent of 2,750 hectares of land managed by the PLA and is used for exercises in target shooting and tactical manoeuvres.

An ongoing public consultation on land supply, which offers 18 options, has understandably excluded all PLA land from consideration.

Its government-appointed commission claims we need to find 1,200 hectares to close the gap between supply and demand over the next three decades.

Just imagine, if the central government agreed to release the site and the local government, the majority shareholder of Disneyland, developed about 100 hectares next to the theme park. Problem solved and then some!

The firing range is just one of 19 sites controlled by the PLA. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor can stop telling us how we all need to compromise for the greater good. Let the government serve the people, not the other way round.

Now I am no military expert. Maybe the PLA really does need the site for the defence of Hong Kong and southern China. The PLA and Beijing will always have the ultimate authority.

But the idea could be a win-win for everyone.