Opened or closed? Debate over public access to HK waterfront site under People’s Liberation Army

02-Nov-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A waterfront civic group in Hong Kong is pressing the government on whether it has changed its stance on public access to a military pier after comments made by the planning authority over a rezoning proposal.

The latest concern on Thursday over a 150-metre promenade stretch in Central came a day before the Town Planning Board, the city’s urban planning watchdog, was set to examine the proposal submitted by the group.

In its rezoning application, filed in August, the Central Harbourfront Concern Group suggested that part of the scenic strip which was given to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on June 29 be rezoned into an open space when not in use by the military.

But on Thursday, the Planning Department, in a board paper that was made public and submitted to the watchdog, said they did not support rezoning, as the primary use of the site was for military purposes, leaving no justification for open spaces.

Concern group member Paul Zimmerman said: “It was promised that the area of the military dock site will be open to the public when not in military use… But now they have changed it to gates being only opened ‘when needed’ meaning the PLA has the power to decide.”

Zimmerman was referring to the Central Outline Zoning Plan, a statutory land use document, which specifies that the Hong Kong garrison of the PLA agreed in 2000 that it would open an area at the dock to the public when not in use.

Under the concern group’s application, the four structures inside the military dock would still be zoned for “military use”. But the rest of the space should be classified as “open” when not serving military purposes.

In response to the application, the PLA also commented on the board paper, saying the site was a protected area since June 29. It added that the Hong Kong government granted the waterfront to the garrison for military defence purposes and it would not be appropriate for other uses.

The Post has reached out to the Planning Department for comment.

“We are not too confident with the Town Planning Board’s decision on Friday, as members of the board were appointed by the government, but we will try,” Zimmerman said.

The dock is still managed by the Lands Department, pending its official handover to the PLA.

The Security Bureau on Thursday said the dock was “still undergoing some necessary works”, and the move would be completed after this was done.

The Chinese and British governments agreed in 1994 to leave a 150-metre (492 foot) stretch of Hong Kong harbourfront as a military dock, but the decision was not implemented in the following 19 years. In 2013 the Hong Kong government applied to change the open-space land use of the Central strip, a move which was approved the following year.

By designating the site as a protected area, the Security Bureau told lawmakers in May that the garrison would in future consider “allowing members of the public to enter the concerned area, without the need for issuing individual permits, under the condition that defence functions would not be affected.”

The PLA occupies 19 sites that were inherited from the British military when the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Under the Garrison Law, the local government should seek approval from Beijing if it wants to rezone any military site for public use.

Zimmerman is running in the coming district council elections on November 24. He is seeking re-election in the Pok Fu Lam constituency in Southern district. The other candidates in his constituency are Siu Wai-chung and Maxine Yao Jie-ning.


Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post

Comments are closed.