A tie: that’s the outcome judging from page 5 of today’s Standard. Protesters look set to fail in their attempt to preserve Lung Mei, a rocky, no doubt foul-smelling and slimy patch of shoreline crawling with loathsome invertebrate life-forms. This follows a government announcement that it would press ahead with its ‘win-win solution to promote community development’ thing, otherwise known as an artificial beach.
The Standard’s report ends with a quote from an Executive Council member who also a vice-chairman of the New Territories lobby/mafia the Heung Yee Kuk, saying that his ownership of nearby land has ‘little’ to do with his support for the project. Equally convincingly, the government’s statement stresses extensive public consultation involving interminable ‘various sectors’, which apparently took place some time back in the last decade.
The opponents’ main concern has been for the local wildlife, but much of this was removed over the weekend by curious members of the public, who took it home, where, the South China Morning Post says, it died. So the only remaining argument against the artificial beach is the one about heavy metals and sewage, which is surely a matter for individual swimmers in the Tai Po neighbourhood to worry about.
There is one other argument, namely ‘just leave it alone’: stop knocking stuff down and changing everything just for the hell of it. And this is where public opinion might have scored a victory by rescuing the West Wing of the old government headquarters in Central. Officials could, the Standard’s anonymous source says, be swayed by popular opposition to the plan to redevelop.
Campaigners to protect what they labeled Ye Olde Authentick Government Hill emphasized the architectural wonders of the block. Those of us less gifted with the insight to see Venice or the Forbidden City in a 1960s concrete cube worried more about the sheer pain in the ass of more mindless construction in our crowded downtown. (The word ‘mindless’ is, if anything, an understatement: bureaucrats’ original vision was for a huge tower full of shopping malls and car parks.)
Assuming that the newspaper wouldn’t print the story unless the ‘source’ were Chief Secretary Carrie Lam or some other responsible adult of similar standing, this raises a tantalizing possibility. With the old complex destined to remain intact, the civil servants will now be able to evacuate the grotesque Government Palace at Tamar and go back to their suitably modest and low-profile old home. The upheaval can be presented as part of the unraveling of ex-Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s sins and disastrous errors while in office – proof of his successor CY Leung’s people-first credentials. Tamar can then be rented out to those companies forever whining about the shortage of office space in Central, or blown up in one of those really fun controlled explosions.