The think tank of former Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa has been criticised after suggesting “large-scale” reclamation projects involving the islands of Lamma, Cheung Chau and Po Toi.

Environmental group Green Sense has called Our Hong Kong Foundation’s proposal unrealistic and divisive, adding that it neglects the true land and population issues faced by the city.

Reclamation map
Yellow – suggested reclamation areas; light and dark blue – suggested protected areas. Photo: Our Hong Kong Foundation via Facebook.

The political think tank rolled out the proposals on Thursday as part of the government consultation process for its Hong Kong 2030+ development plan, which aims to formulate a new planning and development strategy for the city by 2018.

It outlined five sites for reclamation: Cheung Chau, Lamma Island, Po Toi, Tuen Mun and Tseung Kwan O.

“The [Kwai Chung] Container Terminal can be redeveloped as a residential area,” it wrote. “An artificial island in the south of Cheung Chau can be used for the relocation of the Kwai Chung Container Terminal, as well as logistics operations on brown belt sites.”

“The west of Lamma Island can be used for low-density residential development,” it added. “Po Toi can be used for the relocation of prisons and other government facilities.”

po toi waves
Po Toi Island. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The think tank reasoned that if Hongkongers were to increase their average living space from 170 square feet to 270 square feet per person – in line with Singapore – the government would have to find 9,000 hectares of new land.

“For example, 20 per cent of Singapore’s land comes from reclamation… reclaimed land forms 60 per cent of Macau’s total land area, but only 6 per cent of land in Hong Kong comes from reclamation.”

Financial costs and environmental damage

In a press release the same day, Green Sense criticised the proposal for ignoring the financial costs and environmental damage posed by reclamation.

The group said that government proposals to build an artificial island in the waters between Kowloon, Lantau and Hong Kong were already divisive.

Reclamation site in Hong Kong. Photo: GovHK.

“In proposing to increase even more reclamation, the foundation is fanning the flames of social divisions,” it said.

The group added that the proposal ignored the fundamental issues of population policy, such as uncontrolled population growth and lack of control over immigration from mainland China.

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“In the past, the government’s blind seizure of land has created huge pressures on Hong Kong society. Unfortunately the foundation thinks the same as the government.”

As part of the Hong Kong 2030+ plan, the government has also proposed reclaiming land in the east of Lantau Island to create a new “metropolis”. Green groups have opposed these proposals.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.