It had been simmering for a while but, a couple of months ago, the government's extravagant plan to make crappy Lantau Island great (again?) burst forth. A cardboard photo exhibition at the ferry pier and a couple of "consultation meetings" explained to the stunned inhabitants the immense benefits a new town of one million people would bring to sleepy Mui Wo.
Any doubts the usual nimbys and nay-sayers may have had were quickly quashed by a press release from Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po: "Such amount of population and economic activities could create economies of scale and critical mass, leading to a diversified and vibrant new development area." Quite.
With the sleight of hand that has become the hallmark of our government, there will also be a critical mass of "outdoor living", "eco tourism" and "leisure" right next to, if not on top of, the new high-rises, MTR stations and highways. Evidently, our beaches, mountains, hiking trails, cable car, giant Buddha and fishing village aren't crowded enough.
I was thinking about that last weekend when I visited tiny Miyako-jima (population: 55,000), a subtropical island paradise just off Taiwan and the southernmost point of Japan.
My Japanese friend E, whom I was visiting, is involved in Miyako's burgeoning tourism industry and told me the little port has three large cruise ships arriving every week, flooding the island with Chinese. Next year, a mega luxury cruise ship from Guangzhou, holding up to 3,164 passengers, will start making regular landfall.
"All the shops and restaurants are panicking now," E said. Really? Are they afraid the rich cruise passengers will swarm in and buy everything in sight, leaving only empty husks? "No, they're afraid they won't be able to make Chinese menus and have Chinese food," E explained.
‘Quite a bit of space’: Hong Kong development adviser who says Lantau Island is underused met with scepticism and silence
It is true, there isn't a single Chinese restaurant on the island. Imagine - a place with 55,000 people but no Chinese restaurant!
Still, the Miyakans shouldn't bend over backwards to make this charming island more like the places the tourists - who ought to be seeing and trying different things - come from. If visitors don't want to check out Miyako's excellent food and awamori (a strong alcoholic drink), why come?
By the same token, if people want to luxuriate among high-rises identical to those of Sha Tin or Tuen Mun, why the hell come to Lantau Island?