No clear indication of broad support for east Lantau reclamation

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 January, 2017, 5:06pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 January, 2017, 11:06pm

In its zeal to justify the need to reclaim 1,000 hectares around two islands off east Lantau to create the East Lantau Metropolis, the Development Bureau has persistently made false claims about its own public opinion surveys.

In 2011-2013, the bureau conducted a two-stage survey of public opinion on sources of land supply. The survey, it claims, showed that Hong Kong people broadly support reclamation outside Victoria Harbour.

No such conclusion can be drawn from the survey. The results actually point to the opposite conclusion: the majority of Hongkongers are opposed to reclamation, and did not endorse creating a metropolis on artificial islands formed by reclamation.

The deputy secretary for development, Thomas Chan Chung-ching, repeated the same incorrect assertion that the survey constituted consultation with and support of the public for reclamation, during a forum on Hong Kong’s future development held on December 18.

Three methodologies were used in Stage 1 of the survey conducted in 2011-2012. It explored Hongkongers’ reaction to a six-pronged approach to increase land supply. Reclamation was one of the six. In the only methodology based on rigorous statistical principles, with 95 per cent confidence and with the sample population chosen randomly reflecting the population as a whole, 46.4 per cent of Hongkongers opposed reclamation, while 33.6 per cent supported it.

The second methodology involved responses to a questionnaire, submitted voluntarily via the internet and other channels. In this survey, 49.4 per cent supported and 42.5 per cent opposed reclamation. But this was not a statistically valid sample, since voluntary responses could come disproportionately from several groups. The third methodology involved evaluating comments received, for example, in focus groups, media reports and commentaries. This was not statistically valid either. Yet, out of 1,709 comments, 1,179 opposed reclamation outside Victoria Harbour.

Despite these results, the bureau claims there is public support for reclamation. The only statistically valid survey showed the majority is against it. And one of the two unscientific surveys showed overwhelming opposition.

Stage 2 was a survey on how reclaimed land should be used if it is developed. The response does not constitute support for reclamation. But the bureau claimed it showed that the majority supported building a land bank and housing on reclaimed land in the central water passageway.

In fact, in an opinion survey conducted last year on Lantau development, 51.2 per cent of respondents opposed while 31.6 per cent supported a HK$248 million feasibility study of the metropolis.

Tom Yam, Lantau