Sham Chung letter
[Letter to Talkback section of the South China Morning Post, published on 27 July 2004 - minus the pargraphs mentioning the supposed farm for children, and former residents renting land or not]
No, a golf course should not be developed in Sham Chung [lying in northwest of Sai Kung Peninsula]. It's a dull, boring idea, for a scheme that will benefit only few golfers, some ex-residents, and Sun Hung Kai.
Despite the efforts of some ex-residents and Sun Hung Kai, Sham Chung is still a lovely area, in a marvellous setting. It would make a superb site for a more environmentally sensitive tourism project. Existing houses could be renovated, as comfortable accommodation, restaurants, shops, perhaps even a living museum. There are fine old woods, land where freshwater marshes can be recreated to attract egrets and dragonflies, and for the Hong Kong paradise fish whose home here was so casually devastated. As well as enjoying wildlife and scenery, visitors could hike, fly kites, ride mountain bikes, and simply relax away from the city.
With Hong Kong now promoting eco/cultural tourism, I'm sure that if the ex-residents and Sun Hung Kai begin such a scheme, they will find willing and enthusiastic partners in the Tourism Commission and the Hong Kong Tourism Board. Working well together, all parties could bask in the glow of admiration from green groups.
- Maybe this seems like a fantasy. But it's hardly more bizarre than the real situation at Sham Chung - where it appears there's considerable muddying of the picture regarding just who is doing what, and why. A few years ago, reasons for wrecking the Sham Chung wetland included creation of a farm for disadvantaged children - yet it seemed to me this was never used, and it soon fell into disrepair.
Now, we have Sun Hung Kai saying it is renting land to ex-residents, yet ex-residents saying they are not renting the land. We learn of former villagers saying they want to return after development, yet one of only two or three current residents [by my reckoning] says he's opposed to all forms of development at Sham Chung.
And, it's interesting that Li Chun-fai, an ex-resident who now lives in Tai Po, says the grass is being cut because of "hygiene problems". This couldn't be related, then, to any suggestions that if grass grows longer it could attract rare species - and so reduce the chances of obtaining permission for development, could it?
Another bizarre point, to me at least, arises from the Lands Department suggesting a golf course can be classed as agriculture - when the only "crop" anticipated is money for the few.
But for all the strangeness shrouding Sham Chung, there's still time for a change of direction, for introducing a more innovative, more enlightened project that will benefit the area, the current and former residents, Sun Hung Kai, and Hong Kong as a whole.