Letters from leaders of Hong Kong's political parties and government departments.
Good morning, Hong Kong.
Spring is right around the corner, but my thoughts this relaxing Sunday morning linger on a Christmas party at my residence back in mid-December last year for children from Sham Shui Po.
I had asked some of the children who joined the party that day if they had any suggestions for my Budget, then still more than two months away from delivery. One among them, an 11-year-old boy named Hok-wing – asked for more space to play in.
A budget attempts to do a great many things, from shaping our economic development to ensuring that ours is a caring and inclusive society. But beyond focusing on housing, education, health and welfare, and other basic needs, a Budget must also offer the resources, the programmes and the means to creating a livable city.
Arts and culture, a sustainable environment, sports and recreational facilities are essential ingredients in a livable city. So, too, is space. Space to walk, talk and dream in. And, yes, space to play in as pointed out by Hok-wing.
Well, I’m happy to tell Hok-wing, and the people of Hong Kong, that the 2019-20 Budget puts a high priority on livable, breathable, enjoyable space.
It will spread out alongside our storied Victoria Harbour. That’s prime people space. Family space. Kid space. In this Budget, I earmarked $6 billion to fund nine major harbourfront enhancement projects.
That, by the way, is in addition to the $500 million in dedicated funding set aside in 2017.
The bigger picture is this: the Government will provide 35 hectares of new open space – almost twice the size of the Victoria Park – along both sides of our harbourfront. Over the next decade, we will extend the waterfront promenades from their present 20 kilometres to 34 kilometres.
Five of the nine harbourfront enhancement projects are located in Wan Chai, plus one each in the Eastern District, Kai Tak, Cha Kwo Ling and Tsuen Wan. All are brilliantly situated and will, undoubtedly, prove immensely popular.
Among the nine, work on the Island Eastern Corridor boardwalk is expected to begin in 2021, with completion scheduled for 2025 – earlier, if we can. We want Hok-wing and you all to enjoy it as soon as possible.
The sites of the remaining waterfront projects will be released upon the completion of infrastructural work, beginning next year. In the meantime, we will carry out detailed design work for each of the nine projects. On this, we are in close contact with the relevant District Councils on the implementation details.
Regarding their design and use, plans will be developed in concert with the people of Hong Kong. For one or two signature projects in Wan Chai North, we are considering organising a design competition.
The point is we are looking for innovative designs built around engaging themes, from water-centred to smart, green and more.
Some of the harbourfront enhancement projects may be realised through public-private partnerships. Local or global – we encourage both. The key is to maximise the creativity and expertise in project development and management.
Our harbourfront goal is lifestyle diversity, embracing everything from alfresco dining and water-friendly happenings to novel recreational offerings.
Allow me now to update you on the progress of current on-going harbourfront projects, each of which has been approved by the Harbourfront Commission.
The waterfront enhancement of Tsuen Wan will be completed in phases, beginning in the middle of this year.
By the end of next year, the promenade connecting Tamar and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre will be in place, offering a spectacular, three-kilometre waterfront walk all the way from Sheung Wan to Wan Chai.
A technical feasibility study is in progress for the open space at Eastern Street in Sai Ying Pun. We will consult the Harbourfront Commission on its preliminary design later this year.
As for the planned 2.2 hectare Urban Park at Hung Hom, we are sounding out the market on the possibilities of a public-private partnership. The arrangement would cover the park’s design, creation and management.
Victoria Harbour is a natural treasure. In the past, its reclamation gave us valuable land resources for Hong Kong’s economic and social development. That was then. Today, our responsibility is clear and compelling: to preserve and protect it, while making it accessible and desirable for you, the people of Hong Kong.
It’s an inspiring mission. More than space, it also expand our possibilities, both as a community and as an economy. No less important, it’s bound to make Hok-wing happy.
I wish you an enjoyable day and a rewarding year bright with business success and the many pleasures of play.
Dear villagers of Yuen Kong San Tsuen,
Last week, I was kicked out from the village representative election by the government’s returning officer, declaring that I do not sincerely uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR. Lots of media coverage came out afterwards but unfortunately most reporters mentioned the name of our village without knowing where it is. It worries me that you may follow the narrative of the mass media by thinking that I have been using the village election as an excuse to start a political war against the government. This open letter is an explanation of my ideas.
I guess before the disqualification of my candidacy not many of you have heard about the upcoming village election, and even fewer have voted in the past. Frankly, the 15 year old village representative election system does not seem to encourage villagers’ participation, especially among new residents. If you are not an indigenous villager you need to live in the village for more than three years to be eligible to register as a village voter. A village have at least two representatives, one for indigenous villagers and one for residents, but most of the time the latter seat is taken over by another indigenous villager of the major clan. Competitions seldom involves real difference between election platforms, not to mention visions about the future of the rural area.
But that is what a village representative election should be about! Take Yuen Kong San Tsuen as an example, when I wrote my election platform, I realized that a village is actually the best testing ground for new ideas and initiatives. From management of burial ground to revitalization of abandoned farmland, from promotion of renewable energy to recycling system, from establishment of childcare to elderly care co-operatives. All these issues happen within a manageable size of 800 residents, compared to the gigantic New Territory West Legislative Council geographical constituency, with a population of 2 million. For such an interesting position, I can’t find any reason not to run as soon as possible, and to me, every village seat uncontested is a huge waste of political opportunity.
At the same time, my participation in the election relates to the campaign to reform the Heung Yee Kuk. 1300 village representatives are the foundation of the three-tier representative institution in the New Territories, above which we have 27 rural committees and the Heung Yee Kuk. Currently the rural committees are operating in a black box and very few information is open to the public. There is an urgent need to amend the corresponding legislations to make both the rural committees and Heung Yee Kuk more transparent and accountable. They should represent the views of the majority, concern about the environment but not focus on real estate interests of the minority.
But I was barred from running. It has nothing to do with my village election platform and my proposed reform of the rural committees and the Heung Yee Kuk. At the surface of it, the returning officer did not accept my interpretation of what is meant to uphold the basic law. I declared so, and he just didn’t believe it. But the core issue is that this government under the control of the Chinese communist party does not believe in its people, they want to do political screening before the voters choose. They want to know the result prior to the election. They intervene on every level, from the chief executive election to the village representative elections.
And even more alarming is the political logic behind the returning officer’s decision. I was told that not only myself cannot advocate for independence, but I need to denounce others’ right to do so in order to secure my eligibility as a candidate. If this logic get rooted in Hong Kong, we will lose our right to keep silent.
The promotion of this logic is exemplified by the coming enactment of the national anthem ordinance. Actively performing the national anthem in a manner harmful to the dignity is an offence, but not standing respectfully at the occasion where the national anthem is performed may also be prosecuted. In the future, everyone needs to act patriotically in order to stay away from trouble. Pro-Beijing legislator Priscilla Leung even went so far as to propose that management teams of public venues should be held responsible for letting users discuss sensitive political issues.
The world is facing unprecedented challenges on different levels. Global warming and the related extreme weather have triggered social unrests in different regions and will only become more severe and frequent in the near future. Pollution, degradation of ecosystem, ageing and poverty, the development of artificial intelligence and biological engineering are all posing fundamental questions about the essence and continuation of humankind. Liberal democracy itself is being challenged for not able to bring about real change, but a chinese style authoritarian rule suffocating Hong Kong and spreading across the world would definitely make things worse.
You can’t make the world a better place by not letting people speak. It is as simple as that.
The Yuen Kong San Tsuen village election was ended suddenly, but they cannot stop the campaign to carry on. I lost the candidacy, but in return I gained a lot of opportunities to promote democracy, freedom of speech and sustainable development. I hope more villagers are ready to join hands to implement all the proposals in the election platform, and I am confident that many more villagers are willing to compete in the next election, to push for a greener and cleaner rural Hong Kong.
Today marks the beginning of the Yuen Kong San Tsuen "Da Jiu" festival every eight years, it prays for good weather and a peaceful nation. I wish the event a great success and our vegetable farmers to have good harvest in the coming year.