Reprieve for job training centre for disabled teens as government announces it will get a permanent Kowloon home near its current Kwun Tong base
- Secretary for Welfare Law Chi-kwong says the new location will be near the civil service training school which is to occupy Shine Skills Centre’s current site
- Shine will still have to move for a four-year period from 2021. Opposition lawmakers say the proposed temporary home in Kowloon Tong is not suitable
The fate of a job training centre for disabled teens took another twist on Wednesday, with the Hong Kong government announcing that the Kwun Tong facility would return to the vicinity of its current site after a redevelopment project is completed around 2025.
The new proposal means both the enhanced version of the Shine Skills Centre and a suggested civil servants’ training school will be housed near one another at the Kwun Tong site, instead of closing down the former to make way for the government’s staff, as had previously been planned.
The U-turn came after months of impassioned protests by current and prospective students, parents, and lawmakers at the decision to close the centre. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor revealed in her October policy address that the government would redevelop a 118,000 sq ft site in Kwun Tong, which currently houses, among other facilities, the Shine Skills Centre, operated by the Vocational Training Council (VTC).
At the site will be a civil service college featuring upgraded facilities for staff training, a district health centre and other community facilities.
The announcement in October drew a public outcry, with Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong first promising that the government was identifying a site at a more central location in Kowloon for a new integrated vocational training centre and then saying there was a possibility the VTC could continue to provide services at the new site under an enhanced mode.
During a tea session with reporters on Wednesday, Law made the surprise announcement that the new training centre would be built at a location near where Shine is currently situated.
“The civil service college is only about a third of the redevelopment site,” he explained.
He added that the new training centre would take up around 43,000 sq ft of land and there was a possibility it would be completed in 2025.
“To redevelop Shine, you need a place for decanting as you cannot stop the services,” the minister said.
As such, students would still have to move to another location in Kowloon in 2021. Law said the government was considering a school site on Oxford Road in Kowloon Tong, which did not require major renovations and should be completed by 2021, when Shine Kwun Tong will close.
But he said it needed to consult the district and acknowledged that it was not near an MTR station and there was heavy traffic there in the morning.
Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung criticised the choice of the temporary Oxford Road site.
“It is very inconvenient and the campus is old,” Cheung said. “The government can consider using a nearby centre belonging to the Hong Kong Christian Service, which has not been in use for five years, as the temporary site instead.”
The minister also said the government was still discussing with the VTC if it would operate the new training centre.
As to whether he was bowing down to public pressure, Law explained that there were some details the government could not reveal as they were still under discussion. But he said it proceeded with the announcement of the civil service college at this policy address so that it would not delay the opening till after 2030.
Shine provides training programmes for people with disabilities aged 15 and above. The Kwun Tong campus accommodates around 300 students.