Lantau blueprint shows Hong Kong government consultations are costly exercises in fakery

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 4:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 10:35pm

Why does the government spend millions on “consulting” the public? Evidently, so it can distort the results of the consultations to concoct a “consensus” for what it wants.

This has happened yet again with the Sustainable Lantau Blueprint published this month.

Last year, the Development Bureau put on so-called public engagement activities from January to April on the development of Lantau, then published a report in November on the results of the surveys, questionnaires and other feedback.

But the Lantau blueprint just regurgitates government plans for the island that remain essentially unchanged since 2014. The blueprint is justified in the government’s long-term 2030+ plan for Hong Kong. However, the results of the 2030+ public engagement, held from last October to April this year, are yet to be published.

In this public consultation game, the government asks unobjectionable conceptual questions such as “Do you like more living space?” It then uses the positive responses on this general concept to gloss over negative responses on specific issues. With the blueprint, the government predictably concluded that “the proposed Lantau development is generally supported by the public”; negative responses to important specific proposals were downplayed or ignored.

[The government] uses positive responses on [a] general concept to gloss over negative responses on specific issues

On the blueprint’s most consequential subject, creating an East Lantau Metropolis (ELM) by reclaiming 1,000 hectares connecting Kau Yi Chau, Hei Ling Chau and Mui Wo, the public consultation showed more opposition than support.

On the proposal to “conduct study to explore developing ELM and use artificial island(s) to develop a new CBD,” 51.2 per cent of respondents disagreed, while 31.6 per cent agreed. The study is projected to cost HK$248 million. The survey showed more information was needed by the public. None is offered.

Yet, the blueprint presents ELM as a fait accompli, although this metropolis is not needed and projected to cost HK$400 billion, almost half of Hong Kong’s fiscal reserve.

The government used a similar ploy in the 2011-2013 public consultation on strategic land supply.

It claimed “broad support for the six-pronged approach for enhancing land supply”, without mentioning there was broad objection to land reclamation as one of the six approaches. The blueprint uses this misleading study again to justify ELM.

We can expect a similar conclusion on the 2030+ public consultation – “broad public support on the government plan”, while majority opposition to specific projects like the ELM is swept under the rug. On this exercise in fakery, the government has spent at least HK$1.04 million of taxpayers’ money.

Tom Yam, Lantau