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Old September 8th, 2009, 12:22 PM   #41
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Still a lot to learn
7 September 2009
SCMP

The plan to develop Hong Kong into an education hub has been given a boost with the government's identification of the sector as one of the city's six "pillar industries" and reservation of two plots of land for the establishment of private universities.

Of recent government initiatives, the plan to develop higher education and set up research centres in the Lok Ma Chau Loop, in the restricted border zone, has elicited overwhelming interest from local universities.

The 87-hectare plot, between the Lok Ma Chau checkpoint on the Hong Kong side and the Huanggang one on the mainland, was formed by straightening the Shenzhen River more than a decade ago. The Hong Kong and Shenzhen governments agreed that an education hub, comprising research facilities and hi-tech and creative industries, would be set up to raise the competitiveness of the Pearl River Delta economy.

So far seven universities have handed in detailed development proposals to the Education Bureau, which says that a comprehensive report could be finished in 2011, with construction commencing the following year.

Chinese University vice-chancellor Professor Lawrence Lau Juen-yee has said that the site should be allotted to a single university, as only 30 hectares of it has been deemed suitable for development, which he says precludes a joint effort.

However, the Institute of Education's vice-president for research and development, Professor Cheng Yin-cheong, disagrees.

Cheng, who has researched the development of Hong Kong as a regional education hub, said: "The research centres of local tertiary institutions should work together in competing with institutes outside Hong Kong. Currently, internal competition is promoted among local institutes to strive for better results. That strategy has to be reversed, by pooling all the top research talent to compete with top-notch universities in Japan, Beijing and Singapore."

Also making headlines has been the government's land pledge for private universities, after the final meeting of the Task Force on Economic Challenges. Each of the two HK$1 billion sites reserved for private universities is to provide a floor area of 200,000 sq ft, to take in at least 2,000 students. With only 14,500 students, or 18 per cent of the school-age population, receiving subsidised university study each year, education experts have long called for an expansion of the self-financed tertiary sector.

Professor Peter Yuen Pok-man, dean of the Polytechnic University-affiliated College of Professional and Continuing Education, said Hong Kong could never become an education hub if it relied on University Grants Committee-funded institutions alone.

"We must attract students from around the world to enhance the quality of education. Our grants committee-funded universities are of a very high standard, but they don't have many overseas students as the admission quota is not even enough for local students."

Yuen said that with the ceiling on non-local students at UCG-funded institutes capped at 20 per cent, more private universities had to be set up to enlarge the pool of overseas students in Hong Kong.

"A land grant is a very good step for the government to develop private universities," he said. "The government has to choose institutions that have a high reputation for the job and ensure stringent quality-control mechanisms are in place."

A host of complaints, including poor admissions standards, that are plaguing the self-financed tertiary sector could be put down to confining admission to mostly local students, Yuen said.

"With all the best students scooped up by grants committee-funded institutions, the local associate-degree sector has to scrape the barrel to get enough students to balance the books as the sector is run on a self-financed basis," he said. "The springing up of self-financed colleges means there is a large supply, but the local demand has not grown accordingly. That's why the sector must look beyond Hong Kong and admit students from overseas and the mainland."

Cheng said untapped higher-education markets in Asia and beyond could make a substantial contribution to the economy.

"It is estimated that the number of students seeking to study overseas globally will rise to 7.2 million in 2025, of whom about 50 per cent will come from India and China," he said. "The market, especially on the mainland, is huge."

Cheng said Hong Kong's proximity and racial affinity with the mainland gave it an edge in attracting students.

"There are not many top-notch universities in southern China, especially the Pearl River Delta," he said. "With runaway growth sweeping across various industries in the delta, there will be a huge demand for training services for professionals and specialists. To develop education into a pillar industry, Hong Kong has to grasp the opportunities and expand the higher-education sector for the vast untapped market."

Yuen said that another glaring flaw in the government's plan was the lack of a law on establishment of private universities.

"We only have the Post Secondary Colleges Ordinance," he said. "Written a long time ago, the ordinance is outmoded and totally out of sync with the current higher-education scene. Without such a law spelling out the procedures and a road map for establishment of private universities, investors will be at a loss over how many years they have to wait before they can get a university title."

Polytechnic University's continuing education arm now offers self-financed programmes in campuses at West Kowloon and Hung Hom Bay. It has shown an interest in setting up a private university but, Yuen said, the indefinite wait for university status was frustrating.

"We want to be independent of PolyU and have our own degree-awarding status," he said. "We have sent our application to the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications, which will conduct an institutional review in October.

"After the review, they need to observe us for an indefinite time. And Shue Yan University was observed for 25 years before it was granted university status."
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Old September 13th, 2009, 06:51 AM   #42
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NT needs a plan, but not the kuk's legal dumping
13 September 2009
South China Morning Post

The illegal dumping of waste on farmland is a problem that has surfaced all too frequently in recent years. It is one of the abuses turning parts of the New Territories into an eyesore. Lawmakers have long been discussing whether the law could be strengthened to curb this menace and the government has promised to consult stakeholders on the best way forward.

Now the Heung Yee Kuk, which represents indigenous villagers, has put forward a proposal of its own: scrap anti-dumping laws. This flies in the face of efforts to clean up the New Territories. It would amount to a licence to dump waste on agricultural land and then develop it. The kuk argues that there are sound reasons for legalising dumping on private farmland. It claims this would help absorb spoil excavated for infrastructure projects and save the costly exporting of the waste to the mainland.

The proposal is part of the kuk's development blueprint for rural areas in the New Territories. According to kuk vice-chairman Cheung Hok-ming, large swathes of private farmland and many fishponds in low-lying areas have been abandoned and become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Others have been leased to store cargo containers and scrap cars and metal. For this, he blames the government's lack of town planning. Construction of large-scale projects such as the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong express rail line and the MTR's West Island line will require the excavation of huge amounts of soil. Cheung argues it is too expensive to ship the soil to the mainland. Why not dump it on abandoned farm sites, level them off and develop properties on top of them, he reasons. The idea is presented with a veneer of academic respectability; the kuk has hired Baptist University to conduct a study. The research will also explore ways of developing abandoned farmland.

Cheung said the kuk did not intend the dumping plan to include construction waste or for it to affect ecologically sensitive sites. But there is no escaping the fact that if dumping is made legal, landowners will take advantage of the situation. Once material has been dumped and levelled, they will have a stronger case when pushing the Planning Department to allow the land to be used for development.

The kuk is proposing the opposite of what Hong Kong should be doing. We need to toughen the law and increase penalties, not the other round. Illegal dumping is a serious problem across the New Territories. If approved, the kuk's plan would turn much of our rural areas into a free dumping ground.

It may have a point in arguing that the government needs to be more flexible in deciding what to do with disused farmland in low-lying areas. Greater town planning is certainly needed. But the fault lies only partly with the government. Eyesores such as illegal dumps, ill-planned village developments and container and scrap metal yards are primarily the responsibility of unscrupulous and careless landowners. The misguided small-house policy allows every indigenous adult male to build and own a three-storey house; it has made it impossible to introduce effective town planning across much of the New Territories, and should be reviewed.

There is nothing wrong with devising a plan for the sensitive development of the New Territories. But we also need tougher anti-dumping laws and better monitoring. In the long run, that will benefit everyone.
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Old October 25th, 2009, 04:36 PM   #43
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Villagers clash amid bid to fix dump site
Police question four as row escalates

16 October 2009
South China Morning Post

The row over illegal dumping of waste in Ho Sheung Heung escalated into a clash between villagers yesterday, and police had to be called to intervene.

Hau Mo-yi, whose mother's farmland was trashed with tonnes of construction waste, said she, her sister-in-law and two men were being held for questioning at Lok Ma Chau police station last night. Hau said she and her sister-in-law had been accused of breaking a padlock at the site in the Sheung Shui village.

Hau claimed they were harassed and sprayed with water by two men as they photographed soil being dumped.

One of the men, she alleged, was the brother of the village head Hau Chi-keung.

While the two women were not hurt - their clothes were left wet - one of the two cameras used to record the dumping appeared to have suffered water damage.

Hau said the village head was present during the incident. She called police for help at about 5.40pm and about eight officers arrived in 10 minutes.

The village head last night described the incident as a "minor one" in which two villagers got wet accidentally as his colleagues and brothers were irrigating the site. He said he had dropped by after the incident.

Hau Mo-yi, who lives in the village, said she visited the site every day to monitor activity. She took photos, video and even jotted down the details of the trucks unloading waste.

She said that work on the site had continued since some brown soil was dumped four days ago. The fresh soil was being laid on top of the waste and that was being covered by slabs of turf. Three more truckloads of soil were dumped yesterday and a bulldozer was working to level the rest of the site.

The moves were believed to be a ploy to meet the Planning Department's order to remove the waste and restore the site to its original condition. However, the department's order was being suspended pending an administrative review lodged by landlords of the site.

"The dumping has never stopped. It has become more hideous. Some of the trucks also had their licence plates blackened with dirt," Hau said.

She said that a man, believed to have been hired to guard the site and act as a lookout, warned truck drivers of the two women's presence.

"One of the truck drivers, on seeing us, was afraid to unload the soil. But he gave in after the people in charge shouted at him," she said.

Officers from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and Planning Department also visited the site yesterday.

A spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department refused to say if they were inspecting whether the soil being used to cover the waste was suitable for agriculture. Proof of the soil's suitability for farming is crucial. Under planning rules, land-filling using genuine soil suitable for farming is allowed, although the height of the fill is capped at 1.2 metres.

"We were there at the request of the Planning Department to offer some technical advice," the spokesman said.
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Old October 29th, 2009, 02:12 PM   #44
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Sha Tau Kok seeks open access
Residents of border town demand end to travel curbs and look to housing development

28 October 2009
South China Morning Post

Property owners and retailers in the Sha Tau Kok want travel restrictions to be lifted when the Hong Kong government begins to shrink the security cordon next year around the area, which borders the mainland.

"Sha Tau Kok is like an empty town, as it is isolated from the rest of the world by the travel restrictions," said John Tsang Yuk-on, the chairman of the local chamber of commerce.

"It is a waste of land resources if the town remains closed to outsiders.

"The town is the only place in the frontier closed area with built-up community facilities and is ready for housing development once the restrictions are lifted."

In 1952, in an effort to combat illegal immigration and smuggling, the Hong Kong government set up the "frontier closed area" on its northeastern border with China. It covers about 2,800 hectares, including the former fishing village and small port of Sha Tau Kok on Starling Inlet.

Under existing restrictions, visitors have to apply for permits to enter the fenced-off area, and it can take up to a week to obtain one.

In 2006, the government said it would begin to wind back the closed area from about 2,800 hectares to 400 hectares, allowing unrestricted access to all land south of the existing boundary patrol road on the northern border, together with the Lok Ma Chau Loop, Hoo Hok Wai and two patches of land northwest of Lin Ma Hang Village and north of Pak Fu Shan.

Residents of Sha Tau Kok appealed for their town to be included in the scheme, but Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong has said that since there were no barriers or checkpoints to mark the boundary between Hong Kong and the mainland, which ran through the town along Chung Ying Street, this could not be considered.

"Chung Ying Street is a narrow street," Lee said. "There is no physical barrier to delineate the boundary between Hong Kong and the mainland, nor are there any proper boundary-control facilities.

"In addition, smuggling and illegal immigration activities conducted through Chung Ying Street persist."

The government is willing to discuss a partial opening up of sections of the town, including a pier on Starling Inlet to allow for eco-tourism.

Tsang said this meant the town's shops would continue to suffer from a lack of business.

In addition, three plots of land that could be developed into an estimated 1,000 units would lie idle.

The town, which has about 6,000 residents, has full community facilities, such as a post office, a bank, shops, and a ferry pier - recently renovated at a cost of HK$64 million - that linked it to 14 villages in the area, but these facilities would also be underused, he said.

The appeal to release the land for development comes in the wake of a statement last week from the Transport and Housing Bureau that new housing units available for sale had fallen to 47,000 units at the end of last month from 49,000 at the end of June. The supply pipeline is at its lowest level since the bureau began to keep records in the third quarter of 2004.

Fuelled by the tight supply of new flats, home prices have jumped 27.56 per cent since the beginning of the year, according to the Centaline City Leading Index, and returned to the peak level of last year.

In Sha Tau Kok, seaview units sell for HK$2,000 per square foot, with some flats in older buildings selling for as little as HK$1,000 per square foot, said Tsang, who expected prices to jump 20 per cent to 30 per cent if access to the town opened further.

In the hope of capitalising on that rise, villager Wan Wah-yan bought two properties in Sha Tau Kok.

"Now, I have to keep the two properties for my own use. Who will buy them if it remains a closed area?" he said.

Because of the restrictions imposed by the closed area, there have been fewer than 10 property transactions in Sha Tau Kok since January, with each deal worth HK$600,000 to HK$700,000, he said.

Tsang, who is indigenous to the area, has moved to Sha Tin because of Sha Tau Kok's inaccessibility. Buying daily necessities is hard, as only a few shops are open for business.

"I will move back to Sha Tau Kok if the town opens, and so will other villagers. With an improvement in accessibility, buyers may considering moving here, as home prices will be less expensive when compared with urban areas," he said.

Some villagers have moved to the more developed and prosperous Shenzhen border, Tsang said.

These villagers have left their Sha Tau Kok properties vacant because they still need entry permits to travel to Shenzhen through the closed area.
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Old November 4th, 2009, 05:26 PM   #45
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Opinion : Villages could become slums
26 October 2009
SCMP

The urban sprawl in the New Territories is growing rapidly without any co-ordination from government departments. New three-storey buildings are coming up as close as two metres apart, balcony to balcony, kitchen to kitchen.

The lack of co-ordination on regulations on construction design, fire access, drainage and above all road access, has resulted in a spate of disputes which have been widely reported. These disputes will increase as more residents move in to the villages.

Because these houses are being built so close together, there will be a repeat of the old Kowloon City scenario.

The environment will deteriorate and property values will be depressed. Just as in old Kowloon City, so in these New Territories villages, we will see the growth of slums.

Tim Hallworth ("Government must sort out the mess in New Territories villages", October 17) has made the point about the lack of government co-ordination.

Hopefully, officials can stop sticking their heads in the sand and get the Planning Department to actually "plan" instead of just rubber-stamping applications that contravene sensible urban planning rules.

Thomas Wee, Kwun Tong
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Old November 11th, 2009, 05:47 PM   #46
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Low-rise housing, eco-village project urged for border area
30 October 2009
SCMP

The Planning Department recommends releasing 10 hectares of the closed border area for low-rise residential development - at Kong Nga Po and Hung Lung Hang - in a draft development plan for the 2,400-hectare border area to be opened next year.

The plan also includes developments such as an eco-village in Ma Tso Lung and an exhibition and retail centre south of the Man Kam To border crossing. But most areas in the east and west of the border area - more than 1,800 hectares - will be protected as green belts, conservation areas, a country park and agricultural land.

Kong Nga Po, government land near the centre of the border area, is expected to offer more than 11 million square feet of residential floor space in a seven-hectare, low-carbon community. Residential blocks will be three to six storeys high.

Hung Lung Hang, south of Kong Nga Po, is currently home to car parks and storage areas.

Surveyor Charles Chan Chiu-kok said the per-square-foot price of the low-rise apartments to be sold in Kong Nga Po could be as high as HK$10,000, attracting mainland investors and Hong Kong factory owners who needed to cross the border frequently.

After listening to villagers' views, the department recommended an exhibition and retail centre near Man Kam To to support cross-border activities.

The 40-hectare centre, as large as the West Kowloon arts hub, will offer space for wholesale centres, showrooms, shops and commercial uses to meet the needs of both Hong Kong and Shenzhen residents.

Similar developments are also expected at the Lok Ma Chau and Heung Yuen Wai border crossings.

Lam Kam-kwai, vice-chairman of Ta Kwu Ling rural committee, said the proposed exhibition centre would offer business opportunities to local residents. "It gives convenience to Shenzhen residents as they won't need to travel to the city centre, like Tsim Sha Tsui, to buy high-quality products," he said.

On the conservation side, an "eco-lodge" is proposed for the hills of Ma Tso Lung, overlooking the extensive fish ponds and wetlands at Hoo Hok Wai.

The eco-village will consist of 80 accommodation blocks no higher than six metres.

Private parties and landowners will be encouraged to submit proposals to develop Ma Tso Lung and Hoo Hok Wai with conservation initiatives. But developers must follow guidelines to be drawn up by the government and open the sites for public visits.

Other preservation measures include setting up a country park at Robin's Nest. Hiking and heritage trails will be set up to showcase the natural and historic attractions inside the border area.

The area is expected to house a population of about 30,000 after it is opened up in stages, starting from the end of next year.

Professor Ng Cho-nam, of the University of Hong Kong's geography department, said the conservation-led development plan would help preserve the natural environment of the Shenzhen River's catchment area.

"Futian [district], on the north bank of the river, is already fully developed," he said.

The draft development plan will be discussed at a Town Planning Board meeting today.
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Old November 13th, 2009, 03:15 AM   #47
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The idea is good, just hope it won't turn into a low-rise, medium dense luxury exclusive living community.
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Old November 15th, 2009, 06:24 AM   #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EricIsHim View Post
The idea is good, just hope it won't turn into a low-rise, medium dense luxury exclusive living community.
I heard the TV reports and they mentioned the likelihood of turning these into luxury units is low since they are not well-connected to transport.
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Old November 22nd, 2009, 06:53 PM   #49
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New towns blueprint aims to deliver a green dream
The Standard
Wednesday, November 18, 2009














A development blueprint for three parts of the northeast New Territories will provide 46,000 public and private flats for 130,000 people and provide 45,200 jobs.

The government plan covers 805 hectares and pinpoints three areas: Kwu Tung North; Fan Ling North and Ping Che/Ta Kwu Ling, which are currently home to around 8,000 people - of whom 6,000 are from 1,500 households.

Officials will negotiate with the landowners to resume the land for development, a spokesman for the Development Bureau said yesterday.

The plan will be put up for a second round of public consultation, after a three-month consultation ended last November.

According to a bureau paper to be discussed at the Legislative Council development panel next Tuesday, the plot ratio in the development zones under the proposal is capped at five.

This means flat heights would be limited to 35 stories.

Under the plan, a special industries area in Ping Che/Ta Kwu Ling is to be reserved for high-value-added, non- polluting businesses and industries as well as port backup and logistics operations.

A commercial, research and development zone planned along Fan Ling Highway has the potential to be developed into offices and hotels as well as to support the six key industries strongly promoted by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in his last policy address.

They are testing and certification, medical services, innovation and technology, the culture and creative industry, environmental industries and educational services.

The plan aims to help Hong Kong cope with a population which is forecast to balloon from seven million today to 8.4 million by 2030.

There will also be a mix of public and private housing.

Zoning will be done in such a way that residential areas will easily connect to the existing Fan Ling and Sheung Shui railway stations.

In the Kwu Tung North plan, more than 80 percent of the population will live within 500 meters of the proposed rail station.

The government also plans to create a sustainable living environment, adopting green building designs.

Land has also been set aside for the installation of a cooling system in the commercial, research and development zone at Kwu Tung North and the special industries area at Ping Che/Ta Kwu Ling.

The government believes the areas have the potential for development because of their geographical proximity to Shenzhen.
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Old November 24th, 2009, 06:46 PM   #50
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Population of NT new towns cut by 27pc
Plan's timetable labelled optimistic

18 November 2009
South China Morning Post

The new towns proposed in the northeastern New Territories will accommodate a population of 131,000 and offer sites for the development of pillar industries from 2019, according to the Development Bureau.

But the timetable has been criticised as too optimistic, with the government still having to work out how to obtain private sites that comprise 57 per cent of the new town area.

The concept plan announced yesterday was a refined version of a planning study, commissioned in 1998, which proposed three new towns housing a population of 180,000 in Kwu Tung North, Fanling North and Ta Kwu Ling, Ping Che.

There were plans for a university hub at Kwu Tung and a centre for non-polluting industries at Ping Che and Ta Kwu Ling. The original plan was set aside in 2003 due to reduced demand for housing and only revived for public consultation last year.

The latest plans would see about 6,000 people from 1,500 households relocated - 75 per cent of the existing local population. They advocate a lower density environment for the developments, with the population cut by 27 per cent and the number of flats reduced by 36 per cent, from 71,700 to 46,000.

Public housing and private residential developments - no more than 35 storeys tall - are retained for Kwu Tung and Fanling North, along with areas reserved for commercial use, tertiary education, and research and development in Kwu Tung.

Residential development no higher than 10 storeys is added in Ping Che and Ta Kwu Ling, where a 46 hectare industrial centre will be set up for the six pillar industries mentioned in the chief executive's policy address - education, medicine, environmental industries, innovative science, cultural development, and food safety and product testing.

Testing and certification services, innovation and technology, cultural and creative industries, and environmental industries are some examples of what could move into the industrial centre, similar in size to the West Kowloon arts hub.

Planning Department assistant director Raymond Wong Wai-man said the government would do its best to preserve the natural landscape and villages, except for Kwu Tung Village, which occupies the site set aside for the new town centre in Kwu Tung.

The village housed 3,600 people and a few thousand squatters would also be affected, Wong said.

Whether land owners will be asked to leave or to participate in future developments hinges on the development model to be adopted by the government.

Wong said the government was still considering which approach to adopt.

"The development approach we choose must be fair and we are considering some legal issues," he said, adding that the government had yet to determine the scale of public-private partnership to be adopted in developing the new towns.

It has been reported that major developers such as Sun Hung Kai Properties, Henderson Land and Cheung Kong (Holdings) own sites in Kwu Tong.

Town Planning Board member Professor Ng Cho-nam said the government timetable, which suggests commencing construction in 2014, was too optimistic. "Obtaining those private sites is a huge challenge to the government," he said.

Kwu Tung Village representative Nam Siu-fu said he would object to the plan if the government did not relocate the village.

"Our village has a history of 100 years, and some families have lived here for five generations. We have a strong sense of belonging," he said.

Opinion is split among villagers on whether to participate in the development. Ta Kwu Ling rural committee chairman Frank Chan Shung-fai suggested pooling private land to form a trust, which would control and manage development.

But Hau Kam-lam, a North District councillor and an indigenous villager in Ho Sheung Heung, Kwu Tung North, said he doubted the partnership approach could succeed. "Many villagers don't believe in forming a company with developers and waiting until the project is completed to reap profits," he said. "Who can guarantee the project will be delivered?"

Heung Yee Kuk vice-chairman Cheung Hok-ming said past government practice of buying up land to build new towns was unfair to landlords, because land was bought cheap and sold high.

He said officials had yet to explain what they meant by partnership.
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Old November 25th, 2009, 05:06 PM   #51
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Hong Kong-Shenzhen Joint Task Force on Boundary District Development holds fourth meeting
Monday, November 23, 2009
Government Press Release

The Secretary for Development of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, Mrs Carrie Lam, and the Executive Vice Mayor of the Shenzhen Municipal Government, Mr Xu Qin, convened the fourth meeting of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Joint Task Force on Boundary District Development in Hong Kong today (November 23).

The Joint Task Force noted the progress reports submitted by the three working groups on the development of the Liantang/Heung Yuen Wai Boundary Control Point and Lok Ma Chau Loop, and deliberated on the work plan. Both sides are satisfied with the substantial progress made on the two projects.

The Hong Kong and the Shenzhen authorities have exchanged views on the work schedule of the Liantang/Heung Yuen Wai Boundary Control Point project, the mode of co-operation of work projects linking Hong Kong and Shenzhen and preparation for the design competition for the passenger terminal building. According to the current work plan, the Boundary Control Point will be opened not later than 2018.

The Planning and Engineering Study on Development of Lok Ma Chau Loop officially commenced in the middle of this year. Based on the initial view of the Hong Kong and Shenzhen authorities that higher education could be the leading use in the Loop, and complemented with high-tech research and development facilities, as well as cultural and creative industries, the Task Force considered that the Lok Ma Chau Loop should be developed along the principle of sustainable development to build up an area for fostering cross-boundary talent and exchange of knowledge and technology. The Study Consultant will formulate the draft development plan for Lok Ma Chau Loop based on the above principle. It is scheduled that members of the public in Hong Kong and Shenzhen will be consulted in the first half of 2010.
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Old December 3rd, 2009, 10:59 AM   #52
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HK and Shenzhen unveil Qianhai plan
1 December 2009
South China Morning Post

Hong Kong and Shenzhen yesterday announced the establishment of a joint committee to plan the development of service industries in Qianhai, a pilot zone in Shenzhen.

The two cities said in August that they would study ways to promote service industries in Qianhai. But the document did not outline any specific co-operation projects.

At the annual Hong Kong/Shenzhen Co-operation Meeting, acting Shenzhen Mayor Wang Rong said non-permanent residents would be eligible to apply in Shenzhen for permits to travel to Hong Kong under the individual visit scheme starting from December 15.

Unlike permanent residents, who can apply for year-round multiple-entry visit permits to Hong Kong, non-permanent residents have until now had to apply for visas in their home provinces.

Hong Kong Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen said that Shenzhen would set up a body by early next year to manage Qianhai, a 10 sq km zone in Shekou . Hong Kong and Shenzhen will set up an expert group to discuss cross-border co-operation on developing the zone.

Shenzhen will play the leading role in the development of Qianhai and be responsible for managing the area, while Hong Kong will provide comments on the study and formulation of issues such as development planning.

The two sides will encourage Hong Kong enterprises to run businesses there.

There are about seven million non-permanent residents in Shenzhen. The city is understood to be planning to implement the new scheme in two phases. In the first phase, more than two million non-permanent residents, it is estimated, will be allowed to apply in Shenzhen for permits to travel to Hong Kong.

They will be allowed to apply for a permit every three months.

The long-awaited lifting of restrictions had originally been expected to begin on May 1.

Wang said Shenzhen's transport-card company had been pushing ahead with plans to integrate its stored-value card system with Hong Kong's Octopus system.

"There are still some technical aspects such as software upgrading to be resolved," he said.

"I hope these can be tackled as soon as possible."
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Old February 11th, 2010, 05:14 PM   #53
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Conservationists fret over rezoning proposal
Sheung Shui plan designed to please landowners, critics say

12 December 2009
South China Morning Post

Opposition is looming over proposed land-zoning changes at one of the priority conservation sites in Sheung Shui, a result of a plan for a new town in the northern New Territories.

The Kwu Tung (North) development plan was issued for public consultation last month, along with a plan for the closed frontier areas.

Worries have been expressed over the suggestion to turn the existing agricultural zoning of the wetlands at Long Valley and Ho Sheung Heung into comprehensive development and nature conservation. The move has been interpreted as development-led zoning that waters down the conservation importance of the site to please property owners.

Mike Kilburn, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, said the proposed zoning was problematic and might violate the "common sense" of town planning. "While this sounds like a conservation zoning, it is not. In practice it leads to piecemeal degradation on a case-by-case basis."

He said there were similar problems in San Tin and Hoo Hok Wai, within the frontier closed areas, which are to be opened.

The plan maps out future use of 450 hectares of land to house 65,000 people. About 14 per cent of the land would be turned to residential use, and 19 per cent to comprehensive development and nature conservation.

Planning officials have said Long Valley's core would largely be kept intact, but low-density housing or eco-tourism development could still be allowed in less sensitive parts - which they said could address questions over the rights of the landowners.

The Advisory Council on the Environment will discuss the plan on Monday.

Kilburn said it was "highly troubling" that Long Valley was not zoned as a conservation area and that officials might have succumbed to pressure from landowners, as they bluntly admitted in an earlier meeting that it was not possible to zone private land as a conservation area.

Long Valley was the subject of dispute over the building of the Lok Ma Chau spur railway line traversing the heart of the bird haven.

The rail plan was later amended by putting the railway underground, after the rail operator lost a landmark appeal in 2002.

The government later identified Long Valley and Ho Sheung Heung, where most land is zoned as agricultural, as one of the 12 priority sites for conservation under the nature-conservation policy introduced in 2004.

But this July, piles of construction waste were dumped on farmland in Ho Sheung Heung. These dumping sites would be turned from agricultural zoning to village development under the plan.

Another issue of concern is the size of the proposed zone, found to be smaller than the priority conservation sites drawn up by the Environmental Protection Department in 2004. Peter Li Siu-man, a campaign manager at the Conservancy Association, questioned the criteria for redefining the boundary, and was worried that it only served the purpose of justifying developments on the conservation priority site.

Dr Alan Leung Sze-lun, a senior conservation officer of WWF Hong Kong, said he was worried that officials had quietly changed the conservation policy. He said development on ecological areas should be presumed undesirable, and that should be reflected in appropriate protection zoning.

"It is not preferable to change the zoning of any such area prior to [presenting for formal discussion] any feasible options for development."

A spokesman for the Planning Department said the boundary was drawn based on an ecological survey conducted by its consultant. He said the plan could actually achieve a balance between conservation and development needs.
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Old February 22nd, 2010, 06:46 PM   #54
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Protesters out to create chaos over border closure
22 February 2010
The Standard



More than 1,000 protesters are expected to descend on Man Kam To control point tomorrow.

They, along with up to 100 vehicles, hope to create chaos over the closure for reconstruction of the Shenzhen Wenjindu port passenger clearance area until 2012.

As a result of the closure, clearance services for passenger vehicles, including cross-border buses and cars, will be suspended.

Goods vehicles will not be affected and cross- border students traveling by school coaches will clear as normal thanks to special arrangements.

About 150 North District residents marched from Chater Garden to government headquarters in Central yesterday to protest against the closure.

Pro-democrat legislator Wong Sing-chi, who joined the march, said the government did not consult the residents. ``Many knew about the closure only yesterday,'' Wong said. ``No government department answered our request for talks.''

He said about 10,000 people crossed the border each day at Man Kam To, while two buses travel to the border area from Sheung Shui and Fan Ling.

With the closure, residents need to go to Huanggang to cross the border which, according to Wong, takes 40 more minutes and costs an extra HK$40.

About 2.2 million people used the Man Kam To control point last year.
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Old February 25th, 2010, 06:16 AM   #55
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District's residents fight for right to use border crossing
23 February 2010
South China Morning Post

Residents of North District are demanding that they be allowed to use the Man Kam To border crossing which was closed to the general public at midnight on Sunday.

The two-year closure of the border crossing - due to renovations on the Shenzhen side - has angered the district's residents because it came with little warning. However, buses carrying school children and trucks are still allowed to use the crossing.

A lawmaker and rural committee members will meet Security Bureau officials today to demand that the district's residents also be allowed to use the border control point.

About 2,000 residents cross the border for work, while another 6,000 do so for shopping and leisure, legislator and North District councillor Wong Sing-chi said. With the scrapping of the bus service from Sheung Shui to Man Kam To, residents would have to spend twice as much time and money travelling to another border crossing, he said.

Wong criticised the bureau for the lack of publicity about the closure which had come as surprise to many residents.

A Security Bureau spokesman said yesterday the Hong Kong government was informed about the closure in late 2009, and steps were taken to inform "relevant stakeholders". However, the effective date was only made known to it earlier this month.

Several car drivers who were unaware of the closure were turned back at the border yesterday as were travellers seeking to catch a cross-border bus there.

One traveller said he preferred taking a bus because it cost HK$20 to Tsim Sha Tsui, and was far cheaper than the HK$34.80 for a trip on MTR's East Rail.

Sammy Chow Hing-wong, chairman of the Hong Kong Guangdong Boundary Crossing Bus Association, said the hardest hit were the 2,600 people who used to travel by bus from Sheung Shui to Man Kam To every day.

Among those affected are school children who cross the border every day. Although school buses can continue to use the Man Kam To crossing when the children are on board, empty buses cannot do so. Chow said he has asked that empty school buses also be allowed to use the crossing.
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 02:51 PM   #56
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Rethink on closure of Man Kam To crossing
2 March 2010
South China Morning Post

The closed Man Kam To border crossing is set to reopen - with limits - to the public under a new arrangement by the mainland authorities.

The mainland has agreed in principle to provide a clearance for travellers using a limited cross-boundary coach service between Sheung Shui and Man Kam To during rush hours, a Hong Kong government spokesman said in press release on a government website last night.

The department concerned was working out the details with the cross-boundary bus service providers, he said, adding that there would be an announcement once the service was confirmed.

North District residents reacted angrily to the closure of the border checkpoint from February 22 for 2½ years due to renovations on the Shenzhen side, where the checkpoint is called Wenjindu port.

Clearance services for passengers, including cross-boundary buses and private cars, will be suspended, but buses carrying cross-border schoolchildren and trucks are unaffected.

Residents were angered by the lack of publicity and consultation on the closure. A notice came in a Hong Kong government press release 11 days before it closed.
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Old March 21st, 2010, 07:59 PM   #57
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Man Kam To crossing reopens for bus trips
16 March 2010
SCMP

The partially closed Man Kam To border crossing is set to reopen for limited trips by cross-border buses next week, the government said after reaching a deal with mainland authorities.

From March 27, mainland authorities will provide clearance services to travellers using limited cross-border bus services. Three round trips will run between Sheung Shui and the Man Kam To border post during peak commuter periods in the morning and afternoon, a Hong Kong government spokesman said. Legislator and North District councillor Wong Sing-chi, who has called for cross-boundary bus services since the border closed in late February, said he welcomed the 12 trips daily but would fight for 50 daily bus trips.

"A coach can take 50 passengers. What if there are 200 people waiting for buses at the stop? They should have thought for them," said Wong. He said he would check with the Security Bureau about details of the new services in a bid to avoid possible chaos from March 27. North District residents reacted angrily to the closure of the border checkpoint from February 22 for 2-1/2 years due to renovations on the Shenzhen side, where the checkpoint is called Wenjindu.

Clearance services for passengers, including cross-boundary buses and private cars, were suspended, but buses carrying cross-border schoolchildren and trucks are unaffected. Residents were angered by the lack of publicity and consultation on the closure. A notice came in a Hong Kong government press release 11 days before the closure. Between 6,000 and 8,000 commuters were affected by the closure, more than 1,000 being cross-border workers, according to Wong.

Yesterday, about 30 private seven-seater-vehicle drivers blocked the only major route to the border post at about 11am, for about 15 minutes. They left when police arrived. The professional private car drivers, who provide cross-border passenger services, say their jobs are in jeopardy because the the border is closed to them. The government spokesman said cross-border private car quotas issued by mainland authorities were for personal use only, and were not for commercial purposes.
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Old June 21st, 2010, 06:35 PM   #58
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Board wants briefing on planning debate
29 May 2010
South China Morning Post

The Town Planning Board has asked to be briefed on planning officials' discussions in 2004 about linking the record of activities at a particular piece of land to consideration of any planning application involving the land, a link described as the "clean record test".

The test was proposed as a way to address the common practice in rural areas of carrying out work before applying for planning permission, commonly referred to as "destroy first and develop later", but planning officials concluded at the time that a bad record would not be sufficient grounds for rejecting a planning application.

The request for a briefing came after a meeting of the board's Rural and New Town Planning Committee yesterday which, as expected, approved a controversial small house application on an illegal dumping site in Ho Sheung Heung, Sheung Shui.

Four other small house applications for the area affected by the illegal dumping, which took place last year, were approved in 2008, and six owners recently filed a joint land-filling application for their land at the illegal dumping site.

The six were ordered to remove the waste dumped on their properties last year and to cover the site with grass by April, but the restoration work has not been completed, the Planning Department said.

The department has yet to decide whether to support the new land-filling application, although the committee's approval of the small house application and associated land-filling yesterday means the six owners are likely to get their way.

The indigenous landowner whose application was approved yesterday, Hau Wai-nam, has also failed to fully comply with the order to remove all waste and grass the site.

At the committee meeting, Yau Wing-kwong queried whether members should ignore Hau's application until the enforcement issue was fully settled or proceed with discussion regardless.

Hui Wai-keung, district planning officer for North District, assured the committee that while he had no power to oversee enforcement, Hau would not be allowed to evade his obligation to restore the site. "Even if the application is approved, he will have to sort out himself how to satisfy the reinstatement order as required by the law," he said.

Explaining the decision to approve the application, a spokeswoman for the committee said the jurisdiction of the committee, under the Town Planning Ordinance, did not cover enforcement issues, which were the job of the Planning Department. "That means the planning request and enforcement are dealt with separately," she said.

The application satisfied the criteria for assessing small house applications, she said, and there was no major concern on land use compatibility since four small houses nearby had been approved in 2008.

But the committee attached a special condition to the approval requiring the owner to complete construction of a drainage system to the satisfaction of the Drainage Services Department before starting work on building the house.

The meeting was told the house site would be elevated, but some members raised concerns that doing so would aggravate flooding problems in the area.
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Old August 26th, 2010, 12:29 PM   #59
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`Landing visas' hailed as key to border zone
The Standard
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A think-tank led by Executive Council convener Leung Chun-ying has suggested the government issue "landing visas" that would allow mainlanders to visit restricted areas in the northern New Territories for a specified period.

The One Country Two Systems Research Institute said such visas would speed up the development of some sections of the border area without affecting sites set aside for conservation purposes.

The visas can be issued by Hong Kong to spare mainlanders the hassle of securing exit and entry permits from the Public Security Bureau.

In a report handed to the Planning Department, the institute urged the creation of a special border development zone covering the frontier closed area of Kwu Tung North, Fan Ling North and Ping Che/Ta Kwu Ling.

It said Ping Che/Ta Kwu Ling is mainly flat and derelict agricultural land that is suitable for all-round development.

It suggested land visa holders be allowed to stay in the zone for no more than seven days at a time to enjoy services such as education, medical treatment and one-stop shopping. However, they will not be allowed to seek employment.

Institute executive director Cheung Chi-kong said the visas may be issued by Hong Kong under the "one country, two systems" policy.

"The concept is similar to Taiwan's landing visa available to Hong Kong travelers," he said. "Currently, mainlanders have to apply for an exit-entry permit to travel to and from Hong Kong and Macau - a decision that rests with mainland authorities."

Cheung said he is aware that conservationists want to see the border area protected, but there is no reason why a balance cannot be struck.

"The area that involves infrastructure is merely about 28 hectares, and mostly unused agricultural land with little conservation value."

The report also said the development of the zone may ease over- congestion on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon and relieve unemployment in New Territories North.

The Planning Department is currently undertaking studies on a long- term plan for the frontier closed area and the three-in-one new development area.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen mooted the idea of opening up the frontier closed area to development in his 2007 policy address.

The nearby Lok Ma Chau Loop is also targeted for one of 10 leading infrastructure projects being planned.
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Old August 31st, 2010, 08:58 AM   #60
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Opinion : Shenzhen and HK citizens can benefit from green border zone
31 August 2010
SCMP

A 2,400-hectare border area is to be opened next year ("Development urged for green border zone", August 25).

A think tank has suggested that the area could be used for a range of purposes, from private hospitals and outlet malls to conference and exhibition venues and university campuses as Hong Kong needs land for various kinds of development.

I do not think the suggestion from the One Country Two Systems Research Institute would make good use of this green space.

I believe the original plan for the border area by the Planning Department is a better one.

It proposed a conservation-led development for the 2,400-hectare border area.

It wanted more than half of the area to be preserved as a green belt, country parks or conservation zones to serve "as a green buffer between Hong Kong and Shenzhen".

However, the new proposal would turn a large green belt in the middle of the border zone, including the ecologically-important wetlands, into built-up areas.

I think the department's original proposal is better than the new one, for Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

If there is even more development of this border area, the pollution problems will be exacerbated.

The ecological environment of this area situated between Hong Kong and Shenzhen is already very vulnerable, because there has been too much development in Shenzhen. The manufacturing sector is flourishing, but this means more emissions from factories and more sewage in rivers.

Environmental protection regulations were very lax and this threatened the ecological balance in the area in question. Those involved in industries have ignored the adverse impact on the environment and it is not only Shenzhen which suffers. Harmful pollutants are blown over the border.

In the long term, the environment will not be able to withstand further developments such as the ones being proposed by this think tank. There could come a point where the damage done is irreversible.

The department's original proposal not only allows for a green buffer which can ease pollution problems, but it will be an area which can be enjoyed by the people of both cities.

They will have the opportunity to enjoy beautiful and natural scenery. We need to strike a balance between development and environmental protection. The think tank's plan is not consistent with sustainable development.

I appreciate that land is limited in Hong Kong and we need land for more developments to maintain our position in the international community.

However, developing the green border area will not solve our land shortage problems.

As I said, it can only lead to a deterioration of the environment and of people's living standards. And I have doubts about how many people would benefit from the developments suggested by the think tank.

Lo Fung-ha, Tseung Kwan O
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