Part of the much-loved Western District Public Cargo Pier – nicknamed “Instagram Pier” – have been temporarily closed off to the public for a Taoist festival. Concern groups say the government lacks transparency in its plans to convert the award-winning open space into a community garden.
On Thursday, District Councillor Paul Zimmerman wrote in an am730 column: “The District Officer of the Central & Western District has closed off a popular waterfront in Kennedy Town. On Monday, the barriers went up… Without consultation and without a public tender, the area has been let to an event organization for the month of November, the best time and weather for people to enjoy the outdoors.”
The location, governed by the Marine Department’s Cargo Handling Section, is popular among residents, pet owners and joggers in the area. In her policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam mentioned that “a site” in Kennedy Town will be turned into a community garden in the first quarter of 2018. The issue was also discussed in the District Council last year.
The proposed short-term tenancy of the area means that nearly 80 per cent of the specified berth areas 1-3 will be leased to NGOs for community garden purposes, leaving a 10 metre wide area for promenade use.
According to Judy Chan of the Sai Wan Concern Group, those who have following the issue were told last Friday by the Home Affairs Department that anyone who wishes to hold events at the venue are now required to apply to the district officer. She told HKFP that it is unclear when the arrangement was introduced.
The upcoming event to be held at the pier is the Taoist Festival 2017 organised by the Hong Kong Taoist Association. It will take place from November 22 to 30. One of the supporting organisations is the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, according to the official event poster.
“As to how they applied, when they applied, why it was granted – all of these matters are not known to the residents. Does it mean that with the support of the United Front Work Department, one can do whatever they want?” wrote Chan in a blog post.
Chan said that residents of Western District were barred from entering the portion of the pier on Wednesday.
Various concern groups, including the Central and Western Concern Group, Sai Yau Office and Protect Kennedy Town Alliance have initiated a petition addressed to Carrie Lam and Secretary for Development Michael Wong against the “privatisation” of the space.
The petition also said that the government and District Council did not “[consult] the community reasonably and holistically on the proposal to convert the pier area into a community garden.”
“The entire harbourfront is for the people. And not just a skinny promenade. It should not be privatised. Not for developers. Not for private gardens. Not for events. Not for the district officer,” Zimmerman wrote.
In 2013, the pier won the Outstanding Public Space Awards, held by the Hong Kong Public Space Initiative.