Hong Kong housing

‘PLA barracks are waste of resources and should be considered for Hong Kong’s land needs’

Labour Party chairman Steven Kwok says ratio of four military personnel to one hectare of land is ‘unacceptable’ contrast to city’s 67 people per hectare 

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 April, 2018, 8:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 April, 2018, 8:39am

The barracks of the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong must be considered as an option for land needs in a space-starved city, the Labour Party said on Saturday, adding that the premises were underused. 

The party cited official figures showing that about four PLA members shared one hectare (2.5 acres) of military land, compared with the city’s overall population density of 67 people per hectare.

“This is unacceptable,” Labour Party chairman Steven Kwok Wing-kin said during a rally in Kowloon Tong outside one of the PLA’s 19 barracks. “It’s such a waste of resources.”

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The call by the party came ahead of a citywide public consultation – expected to kick off on Thursday – in which Hongkongers would be invited to choose from a list of 18 options to source for more land. 

Authorities have predicted a shortage of at least 1,200 hectares of land to meet housing needs and economic development in the next three decades. The consultation would be conducted by a government-appointed Task Force on Land Supply.

The task force originally planned to include the suggestion of using the city’s 2,700 hectares of military land, but that was eventually dropped from the list of options drawn up for public consultation. The government had made clear that all military sites were for defence purposes.

Kwok challenged this on Saturday, citing a 2011 study by the Legislative Council secretariat. He said there were some 10,000 PLA members in Hong Kong, meaning there was one hectare to every four members. 

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He added that people living near the barracks, especially those in areas such as Kowloon Tong and Tsim Sha Tsui, had often told the party they saw minimum activity and few people in the barracks. 

Kwok said the government refused to disclose more details about the usage of barracks across the city, making it difficult for the public to judge whether its claim of no military site being left idle was true.

The status and nature of military sites are different from other land in Hong Kong
Development Bureau spokeswoman

He said the party would continue to push the government for more details. It would also start a petition soon to gather signatures to support the cause.

In February, the task force decided not to list developing PLA land as an option after the government indicated it had no plans to change the use of such sites. 

Some of the 18 options in the consultation include reclamation, developing country parks, making more efficient use of degraded farmland, tapping into private developers’ land banks in the New Territories and building residential blocks on the Kwai Tsing Container Terminal.

A Development Bureau spokeswoman said the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, and the city’s garrison law stipulated that the use and management of military sites were matters of national defence for which Beijing had sole responsibility and were “not matters of [Hong Kong]”.

“The status and nature of military sites are different from other land in Hong Kong,” she said, adding they should “in no way be regarded” as a land supply option.