Instead of building cycle paths in Hong Kong, citizens should go cycling in mainland China, the chair of a pro-Beijing party has suggested.

New People’s Party (NPP) leader Regina Ip made the comments during a Legislative Council committee meeting which discussed whether or not to approve the construction of a section of the New Territories Cycle Track.

The news comes after the Civil Engineering and Development Department recently admitted that an 11-kilometer section of the track, which connects Yuen Long with Sheung Shui, could cost up to HK$890 million – 66 per cent more than the original estimate.

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Photo: LegCo.

During the meeting, Ip questioned the project’s price tag and said it would be easier to encourage people to cycle in Shenzhen instead, citing a rise in cross-border cycling.

She added that cycling over the border would “help Hong Kongers gain a better understanding of the mainland, lead to positive publicity for the mainland and bring people on board in support of the Central government.”

The New Territories Cycle Track was first proposed by the Civil Engineering and Development Department in 2008, and the government is currently seeking approval from the Legislative Council to begin construction. Work on the 11-kilometer bike path could begin this year and finish by 2019.

new territories cycle track
Photo: Civil Engineering and Development Department.

If the project is approved, cyclists will be able to travel from Tuen Mun to Sheung Shui via Yuen Long, Mai Po and Kwu Tung. The network could eventually reach Ma On Shan via Fanling, Tai Po and Sha Tin, connecting the east and west of the New Territories with a vast 112-kilometer-long network of paths.

Other lawmakers such as former Civic party chair Chan Ka-lok and Tang Ka-piu from the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions have thrown their support behind the project.

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Regina Ip with lawmakers Lau Wong-fat and James Tien at a Hong Kong Cycling Association event. Photo: Hong Kong Cycling Association.

According to Stand News, the chairman of the Water Authority Hau Chi-keung set up the Hong Kong Cycling Association in October last year. The group, which includes prominent pro-Beijing politicians, aims to promote cross-border cycling between Hong Kong and mainland China.

Some of its key backers include Ip, former Liberal party chair James Tien, and lawmaker Lau Wong-fat from the Heung Yee Kuk constituency, which represents interests in the New Territories.

The website also reported that the chair of the Hong Kong Cycling Association Lau Yuen-ping said the organisation would use Hong Kong-mainland cycling tours to promote more understanding between the SAR and mainland China.

In February 2014, government adviser Kaizer Lau Ping-cheung, a member of the Lantau Development Advisory Committee, suggested that Hong Kongers should go to the mainland instead of local country parks to escape the stress of city life, thus freeing up more of the territory’s countryside for development.

Lau was a member of the housing steering committee that helped draft Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s election platform in 2012.

Additional reporting by Ryan Kilpatrick

Vicky is a British-born Chinese journalist with three years of experience covering UK politics. She previously worked for PoliticsHome and has interned at Sky News and CNN International. She also co-produced and filmed a documentary about the Hong Kong protests for MSNBC, which won the grand student prize at the 2015 Human Rights Press Awards. She has a BA in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading and moved to Hong Kong in 2014 to complete a journalism masters at the University of Hong Kong.