Greenpeace has slammed the Hong Kong government for “attempting to mislead” people by claiming that the majority of residents who took part in a public consultation supported the administration’s artificial islands proposal.

The Development Bureau published the results from the first stage of its public consultation on the Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands – formerly known as Lantau Tomorrow Vision – on Thursday. The huge reclamation plan is expected to cost at least HK$580 billion, with researchers estimating it could have “incalculable” ecological impacts.

An artist’s impression of the Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands. Screenshot: Development Bureau.
An artist’s impression of the Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands. Screenshot: Development Bureau.

The government said it had received around 7,800 responses during the consultation period, among which “around 60 per cent expressed support for the project.” Those supporting the proposal thought it could help increase land supply, and that the design had taken the environment and the feasibility of construction into account, the bureau said.

Around 25 per cent of the 7,800 responses objected to the plan. According to the government, they were mainly concerned about the artificial islands’ impact on the environment and public finances.

The team had received “many positive and constructive” opinions in the 30-odd briefing sessions it held, the bureau said. The team also read around 180 news articles and comments about the project, and among the 110 pieces that took a stance, around 60 per cent supported the proposal, the government said.

Those objecting the plan were concerned about factors including cost controls, as well as the impact the proposed project would have on public finances.

Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands
The proposed Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands project. Screenshot: Development Bureau.

Lantau Tomorrow Vision was a landmark development scheme announced by then-chief executive Carrie Lam, after she expanded a proposal first brought up by her predecessor Leung Chun-ying.

Now known as the Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands project, the government said that the reclaimed site would operate as a central business district, as well as providing 210,000 homes.

‘Not representative’

Greenpeace slammed the government for “attempting to mislead citizens,” and said that the results were not truly representative.

Chan Hall-sion of Greenpeace criticised the scale of the public consultation on Thursday, as well as the level of public participation.

Greenpeace campaigner Chan Hall-sion.
Greenpeace campaigner Chan Hall-sion. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

“By sneakily starting the public consultation for Lantau Tomorrow, setting a premise of ‘how to do it,’ and focusing on meeting with professional groups or government-appointed committees, it has led to a small-scale public consultation, with a small number of participants, that lacked representativeness,” Chan said.

“It made people suspect that the government is using the public consultation to pave the way to push Lantau Tomorrow forward forcefully.”

Journalism scholar Francis Lee also said on Thursday that while the responses collected by the government were worth looking into, the proportion support did not represent public opinion, as submitting responses required residents’ active participation.

A previous survey conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI) found that 98 per cent of respondents said they did not take part in the public consultation on the artificial islands proposal. Among them, 28 per cent said they did not know there had been a public consultation, and 23 per cent said they had not known how to take part in the consultation.

Journalism scholar Francis Lee.
Journalism scholar Francis Lee. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Greenpeace said that of the 33 briefing sessions organised by the government, 32 were for professional groups, business organisations, developers, or official consultation groups, with no participation from the general public.

“According to previous large-scale development plans, even if they were less than half of Lantau Tomorrow’s scale, the number of responses collected during the public consultation period could easily be tens of thousands,” the group said.

The group urged the government to explore other development alternatives, including utilising brownfield sites in the city.

HKFP has reached out to the Development Bureau for comment.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.