The onset of Occupy has meant outsiders have had to grapple with the crazy that lies in the shadow of our dazzling skyscrapers. Of course, CY Leung has done his best to make it clear, and no-one could accuse Regina Ip of not playing her part.
But from this far corner of the territory, we see it all too clearly: the pointless public works, the collusion with business, the indifference to the environment, the inability the grasp the actual needs of the community.
These come together in the current bout of Lantau development fever, sparked by the progress of the Macau bridge. When that HK$80 billion monument completes in 2016 it will be time for another boondoggle, and Leung and friends have their hearts set on an artificial island. To be precise they envisage reclamation in the waters between Lantau and Hong Kong to turn Hei Ling Chau and Kau Yi Chau into one large island over which we can drive from Mui Wo to Central.
Preliminary work on the ‘East Lantau Metropolis’ is already underway. Development Secretary Paul Chan announced early this year a study “to explore the feasibility of constructing an artificial island” and the government has committed HK$200 million to it.
To date only one person of influence has pointed out that the government has made no case whatsoever for this addition to our stock of shopping malls and high-rise.
That was Randy Yu, a member of the key Lantau advisory committe LanDAC, general manager of Sino Land and son-in-law of Heung Yee Kuk kingpin Lau Wong-fat. Just as radically, Yu has suggested that the development of Lantau should benefit the residents of Lantau.
The same lack of rigour has been applied to the Zhuhai-Macau bridge. The evidence for the claimed emergence of a ‘bridgehead economy’ is remarkably thin: a study by the One Country Two Systems Research Institute cites a number of new economic zones in Guangdong, almost none of which have occasioned any economic activity.
The one site of actual investment is a Zhuhai real estate development into which Lai Sun Development has tipped HK$3.8 billion. The chairman of Lai Sun, Peter Lam Kin-ngok, also chairs the Hong Kong Tourism Board and is a member of LanDAC.
This kind of conflict of interest is a hangover from the colonial era but is also an integral part of the post-97 dispensation, the purpose of which, as Mr Leung has helpfully explained, is to guarantee the interests of the rich and powerful.