Eleven environmental concern groups have refused to attend a closed-door meeting hosted by the Hong Kong government to introduce its proposed artificial islands project off Lantau Island, saying the conference would have been “absolutely not an open and honest consultation.”

Green groups Lantau Tomorrow Vision
Eleven green groups refused to attend a government meeting over the Lantau artificial islands project on February 6. Photo: Supplied.

The 11 organisations, including Greenpeace, Green Power and Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, were among a number of green groups invited to the Monday meeting hosted by the Civil Engineering and Development Department and the Planning Department.

The HK$580 billion development plan – once known as Lantau Tomorrow Vision – promises to create a new central business district and 210,000 residential flats by creating three artificial islands in Lantau’s eastern waters.

The project’s high estimated cost and potential environmental impact has drawn criticism since its introduction by former leader Leung Chun-ying in 2014.

‘Sneakiest in history’

In a joint statement released on Monday, the 11 green groups said the public consultation period for the artificial islands project was “the sneakiest in history.”

The organisations said they suspected that authorities were not planning to answer questions on costs or environmental impacts raised by civil groups, as the meeting was named as a “briefing” and hosted in private.

“It is absolutely not an open or honest consultation, therefore [we] refuse to be present,” they said.

Lantau Tomorrow Vision
The proposed reclamation area for the Lantau Tomorrow Vision artificial islands project. Photo: LegCo, via screenshot.

Additionally, the statement said the Development Bureau had only uploaded the consultation document to the Legislative Council’s website when the consultation period was launched in late December.

The bureau did not publish any press release or provide ways for people to submit their opinions at that time, and the public consultation website only went online on January 19.

The green groups said that “slashed a quarter of the time” from the three-month consultation period and “suppressed people’s participatory rights.”

The statement added that it was impossible for the public to directly raise questions to officials as the bureau had declared it would not host any open forums but only closed-door meetings with representatives from different sectors or professional bodies.

lantau peak countryside hiking scenery rural country park
Lantau Peak. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The 11 organisations urged the reclamation proposal to be paused until “the government properly gives its answer to the necessity of the project and concerns by different sectors,” including how the development plan would ensure the preservation of marine ecology, as well as how would the government pay for the project in future decades.

The Development Bureau said they were “very disappointed” and it was a shame that some “individual environmental organisations” refused to attend the meeting.

The groups should also raise any opinions about the project “in a practical manner” if they had any, they added: “…instead of only picking on the nitty-gritty of the arrangement of public participation, or even make false criticisms – claiming the government did not take the initiative, or did not hold any consultation, or ignored public participation activities that are actually happening.”

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.