In Hong Kong, public consultations are like elections; they happen but they mean little.
Last night’s meeting between officials from the CEDD and the Planning Dept and the Lantau community was a prime exercise in box-ticking.
After the forum Mui Wo resident Tom Yam, an outspoken critic of the development plans, posted an open letter to Robin Lee, the CEDD director for Lantau, pointing out the brief and tokenistic nature of the event.
If there were a highlight, it was probably from Robin Lee himself, who gave us a masterclass in dissimulation. If he were in Legco, he could singlehandedly sustain a filibuster.
Despite, or because of this, he occasionally managed get on multiple sides of the same issue.
On the vexed topic of cattle – something he acknowledged he knew nothing about – Lee suggested people should learn to live with cattle and buffalo while at the same time the animals should be shipped off elsewhere.
He railed against the idea that the Sustainable Lantau Office was loaded in favour of engineers over conservation experts (as reported yesterday, the top three layers of management are all engineers and planners), or that engineers lacked environmental knowledge.
Lee said all engineers had to work with the environment, and he personally had been working on environmental issues since he graduated. Perhaps this is what he means:
The meeting had time for just 15 questions in 45 minutes. A slight majority was sympathetic to development plans, and the rest were critical in various ways, including Tai O’s Lou Cheuk-wing, who called for more development at that end of the island.
If one thing emerged it is that Mui Wo will be at the centre of the action, both in development plans and disputes over land use.
The Sustainable Lantau Blueprint urges the preservation of Mui Wo’s “rural township character,” but officials made it clear last night it will be a major population growth centre, starting with the new HOS apartments next year. The East Lantau Metropolis (ELM) envisages a freeway and an MTR running through it.
Meanwhile, since ELM was announced in 2014, there’s been a sharp rise in land deals between Mui Wo villagers. Watch this space.