Lawmakers have discussed new ways to manage harbourfront policy and legislation, with DAB’s Edward Leung Hei proposing a new subcommittee to review waterfront policy and legislation just months after the last parliament proposed chopping up the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance (PHO).
In the first substantive Development Panel meeting of the new 7th Legislative Council, Leung said a dedicated committee was needed to push forward plans to link the east and west of the northern Hong Kong Island shore, and to develop legislation relating to harbourfront development.
“We have seen the problems, docks are dirty, we need coordination, because if we don’t keep it on [track], our vision, that is the east-west connection of the northern shore, it is already cut up into five or six sections,” said Leung, who represents Hong Kong Island East.
But lawmakers disagreed on how best to take harbourfront issues forward. Lo Wai-kwok, who represents the Engineering Sector, criticised the idea of a special committee, claiming it might not be the best channel for harbourfront development and that it would “use a lot of LegCo secretaries’ resources”.
“LegCo is not an executive department, we are here to reflect the public opinion. Execution-wise we should only reflect what we see to the departments,” he said. “We should be very careful.”
Development Panel chairman Tony Tse Wai-chuen was ambivalent about the idea, suggesting instead that the Development Bureau simply give the panel regular updates or put in place special meetings relating to harbourfront issues.
But a bona fide committee, says Leung Hei, could help speed up development and projects. His proposed committee would monitor waterfront improvement works, review the effectiveness of completed projects, propose a new model for waterfront management and review the existing legislation and guidelines related to waterfront works.
Last year LegCo was criticised for attempting to dismantle the PHO altogether, with lawmakers in the last session proposing to relax long-standing laws and allow more building development.
That motion, from Federation of Trade Unions’ Alice Mak Mei-kuen, was blasted as “one-sided” with “factual mistakes and grave misstatements of the law”.
Winston Chu Ka-sun, who heads the Society for the Protection of the Harbour, called into question Mak’s motives. We “have to warn the people of Hong Kong, what we are facing is a lot of temptation,” he said at the time.
And while Mak’s motion was rejected, campaigners said at the time they expected another attack during the current legislative session. It is not yet clear whether the proposed harbourfront committee would support existing legislation or be used as a platform to amend the PHO.
Leung has not responded to follow-up questions.