'Urgent action needed' to avoid conflict on Lantau

Government advisers say island's infrastructure problems could spark HK-mainland disputes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 March, 2014, 3:59am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 March, 2014, 5:28pm

Lantau's transport network needs urgent improvements if the island it to avoid becoming the latest trouble spot for conflict between Hongkongers and mainland tourists, an adviser on the island's development warned yesterday.

Brave Chan Yung made the remarks as he joined five fellow members of the government's Lantau Development Advisory Committee to roll out a series of proposals to improve its infrastructure before the HK$83 billion Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge opens in 2016.

Chan, a Northern District councillor, says the island risks the same kind of conflict between visitors and locals seen in the border area he represents unless "urgent" action is taken to improve its transport and tourist facilities. Residents of towns such as Sheung Shui have protested against traders from the mainland, who they say buy up too many goods there for resale and overwhelm local infrastructure.

He cited an instruction from National People's Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang to the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office to work with the Hong Kong government and "make plans and assess the city's tourism capacity".

The group's ideas included adding a station to the Airport Express line to serve border crossing facilities at the end of the bridge and building two new MTR stations in Tung Chung. They also suggest a tunnel linking Mui Wo on southeastern Lantau to the North Lantau Expressway, and extending the Tung Chung to Ngong Ping cable car to Tai O.

Ben Chan Han-pan, a lawmaker and fellow committee member, said the group's ideas were not just transport-oriented. Rather they were about creating a better tourist experience and improving the living environment.

"People are saying that the city centre is too crowded with tourists, who come mainly to shop," the legislator said. "So [our plans include] creating more tourist attractions, and the roads can link them up."

He suggested the government invest in promoting festivals such as the Tai O dragonboat races, as well as improving campsites.

He hoped vocational training schools could be built in Tung Chung to train young people to work in aviation or tourism.

Other members backing the proposals include tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing, Islands District Council chairman Chow Yuk-tong and council vice-chairwoman, Chau Chuen-heung.

The committee was set up to develop an economic and social strategy for the island in Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's policy address in January.

Committee member Franklin Lam Fan-keung sparked controversy last month by suggesting land in country parks could be developed as a cheaper and greener option than Leung's "East Lantau Metropolis" plan for an artificial island.