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Thousands take to streets to protest proposed East Lantau Metropolis

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Thousands of people marched from Causeway Bay to Tamar yesterday (Sunday October 14) to protest the government’s proposed East Lantau Metropolis (ELM) plan, which if it gets the go-ahead, would see large-scale land reclamation off the coast of Lantau.

The organisers of the protest, Save Lantau Alliance, believe the proposal, aimed at addressing Hong Kong’s housing crisis, is a white elephant which will place a burden on Hong Kong’s financial resources. They say that it will not immediately rectify the shortage of affordable housing.

According to The Standard, some of the protesters were people who have been waiting for public housing flats for years but who take issue with the ELM plan, as they believe other solutions, such as retaking Fanling golf course and developing brownfield sites, would supply land much faster. LegCo member Eddie Chu Hoi-dick estimated up to 10,000 protesters were present, but police estimates numbered the crowd at around 5,800.

During the protests, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor appeared on TVB to defend the plan, which she discussed in her October 10 Policy Address. She claimed the press, social media, and political pundits have distorted her message and argued that if she did not mention housing at all, the public would have blamed her “for being unrealistic and not knowing their pains.”

Meanwhile, other government officials have questioned the rationale behind the plan. RTHK reported that Engineer Albert Lai from the Professional Commons believes the ELM is “clearly the most expensive option” compared to alternatives. Additionally, Lands Supply task force member Jasper Tsang admitted on Sunday that he and his colleagues were disappointed with the proposal and that the planned 1,700-hectare artificial island supported by Lam is a “completely different story” to the 1,000-hectare option originally put forward for public consultation, according to The Standard.

A task force report on the public consultation is due out in December. In the meantime, local environmental groups are urging Hongkongers to continue voicing their concerns regarding the controversial project.

Photo: RTHK

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