Government will likely get its way with the development of Lantau. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Public consultation over development of Lantau is a sham

Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po used the official opening of a new playground in Mui Wo, south Lantau, to launch a so-called public engagement exercise.

This will be on his bureau’s plans to develop Lantau and nearby islands into a transport-tourism-economic metropolis serving the mainland. For public engagement read stage-managed farce.

This is how the public was “engaged”. Participants (local grandees and other government supporters) were by invitation only. Residents were cautiously allowed into the playground by official gatekeepers. After Chan’s speech, no questions from the public were entertained. No publicity about the event had been posted in Mui Wo or anywhere on Lantau and loud music drowned out a protest hastily organised by residents, who found out a few days prior that Chan would be attending.

The event was mainly a photo op for Chan, with children as props – pictures of him at the playground quickly appeared on the website of the Lantau Development Advisory Committee. This Chan-appointed committee is a front to give the appearance that the public is being “engaged” in the planning of the biggest development project in the history of Hong Kong. In fact, the committee just rubber-stamps the Lantau development plan, which was drawn up by the government and driven by the mainland’s imperative to integrate Lantau with the Pearl River Delta.

The committee’s “vision” for Lantau, published last month, was ostensibly the result of what it claimed were two years of studies and consultations with local stakeholders. But its content is virtually identical to the government blueprint published in February 2014, following the chief executive’s announcement in his policy address of the plan to transform Lantau from a green lung of 110,000 people into a concrete jungle of one million.

As Tom Yam pointed out in his letter (“Lantau development committee sees island as only real estate”, January 27), the business and political affiliations of committee members indicate whose interests Lantau’s development serves: infrastructure companies, property developers, mass tourism operators.

Chan’s performance in Mui Wo kicked off a government pantomime that makes a show of involving the public in planning Lantau’s future.

The committee is orchestrating two public forums, briefings and roving exhibitions until April. But the result of this so-called engagement exercise will be a Lantau development blueprint largely unchanged from the original one unveiled in 2014. The outcome is preordained.

J. T. Hua, Discovery Bay