Wan Chai District Council chair and property agency owner Stephen Ng Kam-chun has said that redeveloping the Wan Chai Sports Ground into a new convention and exhibition centre is a feasible plan.

“The government has been talking about expanding the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre for over a decade, but unfortunately we face a shortage of land. Redeveloping the Wan Chai Sports Ground – it is indeed a more complete piece of land and located near the centre’s new and old wings, so it would make a very good extension,” Ng told RTHK on Wednesday.

Wan Chai Sports Ground. Photo: GovHK.

During his final Policy Address last month, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying proposed redeveloping the Wan Chai Sports Ground into a new convention centre, as well as “trendy and novel” recreation and sports facilities.

Opened in 1979, the sports ground has been a major venue for professional and school competitions. But the proposal has drawn criticism from the public and the sports sector.

The Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association issued a statement last week urging the government to set aside the plan, citing the significant role the 38-year-old sports field plays in nurturing the city’s professional athletes. It said that the Wan Chai Sports Ground is the city’s only venue open to its 8,000-plus amateur athlete members for training on weekday evenings.

Civil society groups such as Wan Chai Commons and Sai Wan Sports Club have also expressed opposition to the proposal.

Despite the opposition, only two out of 13 Wan Chai District Councillors have stated that they are against the plan, InMedia reported. Pro-democracy councilor Clarissa Yeung Suet-ying criticised the government for lacking long-term plans for the development of track and field in Hong Kong.

Wan Chai Sports Ground. Photo: Google Street View.

Councilor Lam Wai-man of the pro-business Liberal Party said that the Wan Chai Sports Ground is a major venue for schools in the district and its function cannot be replaced by other sports fields at the moment. In response to suggestions that athletes could go to the Kai Tak Sports Park – which is under construction – Lam said the government should at least wait until the construction is completed.

Other Wan Chai councilors, who are either pro-establishment or unaffiliated with any political party, have not stated a clear position on the issue.

Tsang weighs in

Meanwhile, chief executive candidate John Tsang urged caution over the redevelopment plan in a video clip posted on social media.

“I know many alumni from La Salle College take the time to watch inter-school sporting events [at the sports ground],” he said. “Everyone is excited, shouting until they lose their voices… so I understand how you feel towards the grounds.”

Tsang attended the prestigious boys’ school La Salle in his early teens, before completing his education in the United States.

See also: Athletic group urges gov’t to set aside plan to develop ‘irreplaceable’ Wan Chai Sports Ground

Stephen Ng said last week that he would like to see the government’s proposal before deciding his position on the issue. The Wan Chai District Council held a meeting to discuss the proposal in the same week.

Ng is an independent politician and has been a district councilor for more than 20 years. He is the director of the property agency Chun Mou Estate Agency, according to Sing Tao Daily and the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce’s website.

Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.