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Letter dated 24 May 2004 sent to the South China Morning Post

The Editor
South China Morning Post

Dear Sir,

I refer to the Close Up column (South China Morning Post, May 22) in which Mr Simon LI Fook-sean expressed his fear that the harbour would be turned into a river if the current reclamation work continued.

There is absolutely no such worry that the harbour will be turned into a river by the time the Central Reclamation Stage III (CRIII) is completed. Ferries will continue to sail across the harbour.

The CRIII is a major infrastructure project designed, approved and funded to meet Hong Kong's essential transport needs. It provides land for an underground Central-Wan Chai Bypass, which will be an important trunk road on the northern shore of the Hong Kong Island and is vital to complete the strategic road network throughout the territory.

The current work under the CRIII is the final and concluding stage of reclamation in Central which started in 1998. The CRIII has gone through a due process of public scrutiny, particularly by the Town Planning Board and the Legislative Council. As a result of extensive public consultations, the area of reclamation has been reduced from 32 hectares to 18 hectares, which is already the minimum requirement.

We have reiterated time and again that other than the remaining phases of the Central and Wan Chai reclamation and Southeast Kowloon proposal, there will be no more reclamation within the Harbour.

Any such further reclamation must satisfy the presumption against reclamation under the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance according to the interpretation as laid down by the Court of Final Appeal. As determined by the CFA Judges that presumption can only be rebutted by establishing an overriding public need for reclamation and the extent of reclamation is the minimum required.

The Government shares the community's aspirations to protect and preserve the Victoria Harbour, which is a unique natural heritage of Hong Kong. We believe in actively engaging the community in this effort.

To this end, we have established the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee to achieve a common vision for enhancing the Harbour. Through the joint efforts of the Government and the community, we hope to make the harbour more accessible to the public for their enjoyment. We also want to ensure that the remaining harbour development projects will maintain Hong Kong a pleasant city to live in and visit.

Timothy Li
Chief Information Officer
Housing, Planning and Lands Bureau