Lawmakers could quickly approve funding for a study on a huge reclamation project off Lantau Island, the head of the committee that vets such requests said, while calling critics of the controversial scheme “sinners in history”.
Legislative Council Finance Committee chairman Chan Kin-por said on Saturday fast approval for a feasibility study was likely because rule changes had made filibustering difficult. He estimated the green light could be given in under 20 hours.
“I will be the bad guy. There’s no choice. I will strictly stick to procedural rules,” he said on a radio talk show, in a reference to his powers as chairman.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor this month announced the “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” project, which involves building 1,700 hectares of artificial islands off Lantau to tackle land shortages.
Critics of the scheme believe it will come at high environmental and economic costs – conservative estimates put the price tag at about HK$500 billion (US$63.8 billion), roughly half of the city’s fiscal reserves, while others put it closer to HK$1 trillion.
A funding request for a study has not been tabled to Legco.
Chan said opposition lawmakers who stalled debates had put pressure on him, pointing to how discussions on funding requests for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and high-speed rail had taken more than 20 hours before the house rules were tightened in March.
But Chan said he saw little reason for debate to drag on for what was only a feasibility study. He urged opposition legislators not to play politics with livelihood issues and called on officials to stand firm.
“I hope the government will not kneel down,” Chan said.
“If you don’t do the study, how can you allay residents’ worries [over the plan]?”
Chan, a supporter of the Lantau plan, said land issues were the root of all of Hong Kong’s problems.
He said using brownfield sites for development would take at least 10 years. Chan also criticised those who opposed the reclamation, saying they only saw risks but not solutions.
“People who say they are against [the plan], they certainly are sinners in history,” he said.
Lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, convenor of the pro-democracy camp, said it was “more than unfair” for Chan to suggest the funding approval could be secured quickly.
“All chairmen supposedly have to be fair. Chan is completely out of line,” Mo said. “He was basically telling the government: ‘Come to me. I will be the clown … and get it passed for you.’”
Mo said it was disgusting for Chan to turn Legco into a rubber stamp and the pan-democrats would try to whip up public opinion against the reclamation.
Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said lawmakers had an obligation to scrutinise funding requests.
“We have a duty to press officials for more details,” he said, adding that he believed all 23 pro-democracy lawmakers would use their allotted speaking time to push for more information.