Question: What’s the deal with the Northeast New Territories (#NENT) Development Plan? I heard that some companies (or few people) are going to get a lot of money from the land? And something was passed a few days ago in 立法㑹 under questionable circumstances? What happened?
Answer: The North East New Territories (NENT) Development Project would allow Mainland Chinese to enter Hong Kong without a visa, which effectively removes the border between Hong Kong SAR and China.
However, this is against the Basic Law (HK’s mini-constitution), which stresses “one country, two systems”, where Hong Kong enjoys autonomy despite being part of China.
June 27th, 2014 – Members of the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee voted 29-2 to move forward with the NENT Development Project, despite irregularities with rushed voting procedures.
8 Reasons Why the Northeast New Territories (NENT) Development Plan is Wrong for Hong Kong
1. Doesn’t resolve Hong Kong’s Housing Issues
North-East New Territories Development Plan (NENT Plan) involves 614 hectares of land. Of this, 400 hectares of the plan requires the government to buy from landowners.
Residential development accounts for 96 hectares of the project, which is estimated to provide 60700 residential units: 40% public housing and 60% private housing.
Majority of private housing part for project is “low density luxury housing” (54 hectares), and only 36 hectares of the entire project is used for pubic housing – just 6% of the project!
2. Destroys Traditional Communities
Despite preserving some traditional villages, over 10,000 people are still affected by the plan. Homes inhabited by over 3 generations of families will be destroyed in the name of development.
NENT Plan also destroys quality of life for inhabitants in the affected area. Landowning villagers are being forced to leave, but unable to afford replacement homes despite government compensation.
Most of all, all inhabitants will lose their homes and traditions, under the NENT Plan.
3. Many Elderly Will Be Made Homeless
HK SAR government’s latest NENT Plan is to demolish the existing elderly home in Shek Tsai Leng in 2 phrases and replace it with a public estate for the elderly in 2023.
It sounds great on paper, but not all the elderly would qualify to live in the replacement estate, which means there will be those made homeless by the development plan.
Even if they qualify to move into the replacement estate, the first phrase of demolition will badly affect the environment and quality of life for elderly who are living in the area.
4. Major Conflicts of Interest
The Town Planning Board (TPB) has not approved the NENT Development Plan but HK SAR Government bypassed it to apply for public funding, which is against procedure.
Also, details and size of land acquisitions has not been finalised for proper review. The Financial Committee of the Legislative Council (LegCo) that approved the plan is composed of legislators with direct conflicts of interests.
Legislators with such conflicts of interest include Ng Leung-sing (Chairman of the Committee who is tied to Sun Hung Kai), James Tien Pei-chun (New World Development), Lau Wong-fat and Abraham Razack.
5. Destroys Local Farming and Agriculture
The NENT Plan will destroy 25% of active farmlands in Hong Kong SAR and what remains of locally produced vegetables and livestock along with harming the environment. The HK SAR Government has no plans for real sustainable development in Hong Kong’s rural areas.
NENT Plan will turn remaining farmlands into “to-be-developed” land, which allows developers to continue accumulating land for development into private luxury housing, shopping centres, and other commercial development catering to Mainland Chinese.
6. Doesn’t Create Jobs
The NENT Plan claims that it will “..maximise the increasingly frequent economic interactions” similar to ZAPE in Macau and the Shenzhen SEZ as in the past. Plan also claims the NENT development will provide around 37700 new job opportunities, including research and development, retail and community services.
However, other relevant necessary services including education are not specified. There is also concern whether citizens who move into the NENT development area will have the necessary skills and qualifications needed to fulfill the demand in these industries or not.
7. Ignores Public Concerns
Villagers affected by NENT Plan and activists supporting the villagers have exhausted all methods to urge the government to withdraw the plan.
They have spoken to relevant government officials, protested outside the Lands Department, collected 50,000 signatures opposing the Plan, and some elderly affected by the plan have knelt at the LegCo begging them to withdraw the Plan.
However, the government and those in power refused to change their minds.
8. An Expensive White Elephant
The HK SAR Government plans to spend USD15.5 billion to build a “new Northeast New Territories”. Around USD5.3 billion will be spent on infrastructure, and USD3.9 billion is used for land compensation.
About 95% of land qualified for government compensation is owned by major developers and indigenous villagers.
Instead of destroying local agriculture and livelihood of people living in the area, the government could have used the money on projects that are more acceptable to Hongkongers.
This NENT Plan highlights the collusion between government and big business, and the pro-Beijing camp’s domination of the LegCo.
Chief Executive CY Leung has gone on record saying he wanted the NENT as a special area where Mainland Chinese can enter visa-free. This would erase the border between China and HK.
The NENT development area also matches the land holdings of major property developers, suggesting collusion between government and big business.
The Plan fails to resolve ongoing housing and job creation issues in Hong Kong. It would also result in loss of locally farmed crops that contribute to a sustainable Hong Kong.
This USD15.5 billion White Elephant project is also a potential waste of taxpayers’ money.
Are you comfortable to bear this cost?