If Hong Kong is a special part of China, Discovery Bay is a special part of Hong Kong. The tranquil, leafy, suburb-by-the-sea, with low-rise housing and low-density population, offers its middle-class residents a welcome escape from city life.
But DB, my home for more than a decade, is changing. The Marina, an iconic feature of the neighbourhood for almost 30 years, is to be closed indefinitely at the end of the year “for renovation”. The 200 or so members of the boat-dwelling community there are being unceremoniously evicted.
Overnight ferries, which many residents depend on to get home in the early hours, are due to be replaced by an unappealing bus service. If this happens, a key part of developer Hong Kong Resort Company’s social contract with residents will go.
Meanwhile, a new shopping mall is being built next to the DB ferry pier. It rises like a forbidding fortress in the heart of the town. No one seems to know what will be in it – except for an ice rink. Will it meet the needs of the community’s 19,000 residents? Will it offer exciting stores and restaurants to compete with the likes of ParknShop? Or will it be aimed at mainland tourists, bused in via the new bridge from Macau and Zhuhai? Is DB to become a quaint version of Tung Chung, an outlet store destination with a beach?
There is even a rumour that the golf carts used by many for getting around are to be replaced with cars. This may be sheer paranoia on the part of DB residents, but if it ever happened it would mark the beginning of the end.
DB is not to everyone’s taste. Often derided by comparison to The Prisoner or The Stepford Wives, it is seen by some as a soulless spot for foreigners who want to be reminded of home. But whatever you think of it, DB is different. The diversity it offers should be preserved. Residents are at least entitled to know what is being planned.
Amid concerns that Hong Kong is becoming just another Chinese city, we shouldn’t let DB become just another part of Hong Kong.