This new banner in Pui O (ab0ve), calling for a massive upgrade of Lantau’s main roads, tells the story.
The rural committees who were the key backers of the scheme to forcibly remove the cattle are now effectively demanding the scrapping of the closed road scheme and calling for the island to be fully integrated into the SAR’s road network.
They’re not holding back. They’re asking for:
- Mui Wo to Tai O road be upgraded to a public highway, with laybys and bus parking places;
- A new highway cutting through country park from Mui Wo to North Lantau;
- The go-ahead for the coastal highway from Tung Chung to Tai O;
- More laybys on the Tung Chung Rd.
Such substantial claims would be impossible if cattle were still ‘disrupting’ traffic, as the AFCD puts it, and without the expectation that more relocations will strip Lantau villages of their cattle population.
Not only was the support of the rural committees essential for the AFCD relocation scheme to go ahead, it is highly likely that many of the ‘complaints’ cited by the department came from the rural committees themselves, whose members have long seen cattle as much more an obstruction to their financial ambitions than to the roads.
As we have seen, the AFCD has couched the relocation programme in terms entirely sympathetic to the rural committees, describing the cattle as a disruption to traffic and with only a token reference to their well-being.
Granted, some of these claims are purely ambit – even the Highways Dept would flinch at the cost of building a highway to Tai O. And the timing is doubtless aimed at grabbing a share of the torrents of cash about to be tipped onto the island.
But the scale of those demands lays bare the ambition of the powerful local business interests to turn Lantau into a mass tourism playground with streams of tourists continuously bussed into Ngong Ping and Tai O.
None of that would be possible with the island’s current road network, low speed limits and the proximity to cattle.
LegCo will hold hearings into a complaint against AFCD filed by cattle concern groups on April 24 and April 30.
To show your opposition to the forced relocation scheme and to demand the government adopt an innovative and sustainable development programme for Lantau, please sign our petition.