The House News
15th April 2013
<PLA Takes Land in Central – HKSAR Government as Accomplice>
The majority of the people of Hong Kong have no idea that the HKSAR government is planning to allocate a plot of 30,000 sq. ft. land at the Central Promenade to the People’s Liberal Army (PLA) for military use. The HKSAR government has submitted the amendments to the Town Planning Board, and today (15th April 2013) is the last day for public to submit their comment on the amendments. Once the amendment of the outline zoning plan is approved, the PLA will have the right to build a military facility that is ten meters tall with a total surface area of 100,000 sq. ft. without getting approval from the Town Planning Board nor having public consultation. This facility will be around 200 meters away from the Tamar Park and the Legislative Council Building, and breaks up the Central Promenade that connects Central and Wan Chai. What exactly is the HKSAR government planning to do?
Red text box (top to bottom): military berth, military passageway, headquarter for PLA Hong Kong Garrison
This plot of land is planned as public open space, and the original plan remarked that naval vessels are allowed to use the pier. The HKSAR government has been promising various public organisations that PLA naval vessels will only anchor at the pier periodically and the public can use the promenade freely on all other days. The public did not object having naval vessels using the pier as this type of arrangement was established prior to the handover of Hong Kong’s sovereignty, and a facility that is occupied by the military on a periodic basis will have limited impact on the public use.
The amendments, however, changes the purpose of this plot of land from “periodic military use” to “permanent military use”. Amendments also mention that a three storeys high facility can be built on this plot of land with no restrictions. The Planning Department does not follow its usual procedures and leaving the columns “Permitted Use” and “Town Planning Board’s permission must be sought” in the outline zoning plan blank. This means that the PLA can do whatever they want, and will not be restricted by the use of the pier (they could build a fort or arsenal or anything else). They could also disregard the original plan for the promenade, which is shocking.
Tracing back to the source, the amendments proposed by the HKSAR government has committed three sins:
1. breached the promise to the people of Hong Kong on allowing free access to the harbour front, and the public losses the promenade that runs through the north of Hong Kong island;
2. violated the original intention the Court of Final Appeal approved the reclamation project at the Victoria Harbour: a military facility in Central does not fit the principles of “overriding public need” and “no other options”;
3. violated the “Harbour Planning Principles and Guidelines” that was laid down by the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee which is founded by the HKSAR Government, especially the 7th principle which says “unrestricted and convenient visual and physical access” and 8th principle which says “harbor-front areas should maximise opportunities for public enjoyment”.
The land that belongs to the people of Hong Kong could become a place that the people of Hong Kong cannot step foot in. The HKSAR government demands to reclaim a large amount of land in order increase land reserve, but refuses to disclose the use of such land. Even though the use of this plot of land was promised by the government but the promise can be lifted in a blink of an eye. Could we still believe other plots of land, which the government did not make any promised about their use, will be used for the benefits of the people of Hong Kong? Will the officials from the HKSAR government have the power to realise the good proposals (that benefits the people of Hong Kong) and protect the people of Hong Kong from harms imposed by the powerful individuals or organisations?
City planning is closely linked to politics. Without a democratic system to support city planning, no matter how hard the public and professionals work on it, the results will not be for the best of the people of Hong Kong. Victoria Harbour is only one example, Lee Wai Lee site in Kowloon Tong is another.
According to procedures, after today’s deadline for submitting comments and views, there are three weeks in the next month that allows the public to give opinions to the Town Planning Board. Whether we could have a Central Promenade, whether we could protect our land, and hopefully triggered a reform on the city planning system to become democratic, are all depending on this battle.
Citizens can send their objections to firstname.lastname@example.org by 15th April. The amendments proposal is filed under S/H24/8.
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