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Christian coalition fights Hong Kong reclamation project

Group warns that scheme will consume a lot of the territory's reserves and could cause an ecological disaster

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

Updated: November 08, 2018 07:25 AM GMT
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Christian coalition fights Hong Kong reclamation project

A press conference on Nov. 7 announces the establishment of Bonum: Christians Caring for Creation to oppose the Lantau reclamation plan in Hong Kong. From left, Ng Wai Chiu, Roy Chan, Terence Lai, Kung Wai Sum, Yip Po Lam, Eddie Tse and Friar William Ng. (ucanews.com photo)

Christian groups and individuals have set up Bonum: Christians Caring for Creation to oppose a reclamation plan in Hong Kong.

Members of the coalition include the Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong Diocese, Hong Kong Christian Council's land committee, Hong Kong Christian Institute, Christian Social Workers, Good Neighbour North District Church, Christian Earth Concern, Ecumenical Pastoral Platform for Youth and Chan Han Ming.

The reclamation plan was proposed by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam in her second policy address on Oct. 10. The government will spend HK$500 billion (US$63 billion) on construction costs, equivalent to half of Hong Kong's reserves, to reclaim four or more islands near Lantau Island. They are expected to accommodate 700,000 to 1.1 million people.

The establishment of the coalition was announced at a press conference on Nov. 7 with the slogan "Protecting the land and caring for all beings."

The coalition said the reclamation plan was unprecedented in Hong Kong. "Not only does it consume a lot of Hong Kong's reserves but it is also feared that it will bring a huge ecological disaster," it said.

Yip Po Lam, project officer of the Justice and Peace Commission, said the coalition's purpose was to appeal to the faithful, the public and lawmakers to "ecologically convert" and ask the government to withdraw the plan, protect the land and build a caring and sharing society.

She said that land is the gift of God and man is not the owner of the land but only the steward.

"Pope Francis has said that various ecological crises that are getting worse are rooted in anthropocentrism. Selfishness and self-interest make humanity embark on endless development and consumerism, regarding nature as a consumer product and oppressing the weak to serve humans' greed, power and desire," Yip Po Lam said.

Terence Lai, social ministry officer of Hong Kong Christian Institute, said the government had rushed to launch the plan without specific justifications and details.

He said the rise in water levels caused by global warming would threaten the safety of the artificial islands, while high costs would undermine public spending on education, health and social welfare.

Hong Kong's housing shortage is due to unfair land distribution rather than a lack of land, he said.

In particular, Lai said, the plan to build artificial islands requires a large amount of sea sand to be used for reclamation. "This method is costly, risky and inflexible. It is an extremely inefficient land-building plan, and the ecological cost to be paid is too great," he said.

Eddie Tse of Christian Earth Concern said the coalition will hold a series of activities in the coming months including an online petition, seminars, a movie and symposiums.

The online petition was launched by Hong Kong Christian Council on Oct. 10 after Lam's policy address. More than 20,000 signed the petition in just three days and two-thirds of them indicated they were non-Christians.

Roy Chan, minister in charge of Good Neighbour North District Church, said the Bible mentioned people had the right to govern the earth, but "people are not the Lord, nor can they create land from nothing like the Lord. Therefore, people must respect the original laws and characteristics of the land when they manage the land."

Ng Wai Chiu of Christian Social Workers quoted Laudato si', the second encyclical of Pope Francis, saying that "we must be modest, repentant and reborn" and "must incorporate the next generation's public welfare into the perspectives and care of the present generation to establish justice between generations. Think about our future brothers and sisters, leaving them a sustainable ecology."

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