8 May 2003

Chairman and Members of The Finance Committee
Legislative Council
c/o Ms. Pauline Ng
Secretary of The Finance Committee
Legislative Building
8 Jackson Road
Hong Kong

Dear Chairman and Honourable Members,

Re: 72LC – Prison Development Plan at Hei Ling Chau

After reviewing the Paper PWSC(2002-03)95 I have great concern on allocating $46.7 million to conduct the feasibility study and associated works of the above-mentioned project. I also object to upgrading the project to Category A because of the following reasons:

1. Feasibility Study on One Single Site is Not Appropriate

Hei Ling Chau is the only proposed site. To contract out the feasibility study to outside consultants is merely a formality leaving no room for other alternatives. At a time when we have huge budget deficits, spending HK$46.5 million on consultancy work with pre-determined result is not justifiable.

2. Spending HK$16 Billion on A Super-prison is Not Prudent

The proposed prison development is expected to accommodate 7,220 penal places, i.e. cells. In other words, the new project will cost the taxpayers HK$2.2 million per cell (HK$16 billion/7,220). The amount is probably higher than the average cost of an apartment for a family in private housing.

The Security Bureau estimates that the penal population will reach 14,000 by 2015 and 15,000 by 2024. However, there is no indication of any mitigation measures such as:

Preventive measure rather than punitive approach will not only reduce the capital outlay, but it will also make Hong Kong a better place to live.

3. The Opportunity Cost Argument is No Longer Viable

One of Security Bureau’s arguments for the super-prison is that the new facility will enable the existing penal sites on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon to be released for alternative development after co-location. However, under the current economic situation and that in the foreseeable future, it is doubtful whether the redevelopment value of these sites justifies the capital expenditure of HK$16 billion.

4. The Concentration of Prisoners Will Cause Security Hazards

Placing a large number of prisoners in a highly concentrated super prison will pose a strong threat to the nearby communities, particularly during an outbreak such as an epidemic, fire, riot or prisoners runaway. This would definitely create anxiety to the communities around Hei Ling Chau. The emergency response time and resources needed for the site at a remote island would also be much longer and higher than other potential locations with land access.

5. The Project Ignores The Ecological Impact and Tourism Development

The fixed crossing from Hei Ling Chau to Lantau and the reclamation will definitely disturb the ecosystem and marine life. Sunshine Island and part of Hei Ling Chau, which are virtually undisturbed, will be adversely affected. The fixed crossing will be an eyesore for the neighbouring islands, numerous hiking trails around South Lantau and Disney Theme Park. The proposed project is also contrary to Government’s commitment in maintaining sustainable development in Hong Kong.

Further, Peng Chau is already in the process of becoming an eco-tourism center. Hei Ling Chau and Sunshine Island have similar potentials. Together with the nearby Lantau Country Park and Disney Theme Park, the islands can be developed into a major prime tourism attraction for both local and overseas visitors. Its economic value should not be under-estimated.

6. Local Objections Not Properly Addressed

The paper stated that the Islands District Council was consulted on 12 August 2002, but it failed to revealed the fact that when the same subject was raised in the Peng Chau/Discovery Bay Area Committee two days later on 14 August 2002, there were strong and overwhelming objections. These two sub-areas are within the vicinity of the proposed site and their residents are those mostly affected. Their voice should not be ignored.

7. Hei Ling Chau Vs. Kong Nga Po

The discussion paper compares the two site options: Kong Nga Po and Hei Ling Chau. It is obvious that the site at Kong Nga Po has advantages over that in Hei Ling Chau in terms of cost effectiveness and proximity of the location.

The infrastructure expenditure would cost much more in Hei Ling Chau than that in Kong Nga Po as the former one involves massive reclamation and construction of the fixed crossing. In terms of traveling time and cost, Kong Nga Po has the advantages of shorter time and less costly compared with Hei Ling Chau.

The only disadvantage of Kong Nga Po seems to be its potential development value where the Government cannot accurately estimate at this stage.

My Proposal

Prison overcrowding is a real problem today. However, we should consider the issue on a long-term basis. It should be studied in detail with due regard for the financial, economic, social and environmental impacts. A broader-based study should be conducted on alternative site locations before the commitment of any capital investment.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely

Amy Yung
Islands District Council Member
Discovery Bay