A proposal to build a commuter town for Hong Kongers in China to solve a housing crisis was slammed yesterday as ghettoizing poorer residents and compromising the territory’s autonomy.
MTR Corp (香港鐵路), which runs the territory’s railway network and acts as a property developer, has started talks with its state-run counterpart in China to explore areas in southern China that could be used to build the outpost, the South China Morning Post reported.
The areas in question are in Nansha and Foshan in Guangdong Province, which is linked to the territory through cross-border railways and where property prices are much more affordable.
Opposition figures said the plan was another way to “mainlandize” the territory.
Hong Kong’s government stands accused of colluding with developers instead of pushing for affordable accommodation.
MTR would build the new housing community with a “Hong Kong ambiance” under the proposal, the newspaper said.
It would be aimed at retirees and young people, equipped with commercial and healthcare facilities and located near the high-speed rail station, it added.
“It’s just yet another attempt to ‘integrate’ and ‘mainlandize’ Hong Kong,” pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo (毛孟靜) said, adding that MTR is majority-owned by the territory’s government.
Urban planning expert Paul Zimmerman said a Hong Kong enclave in China would raise a host of questions about how different rules would apply, ranging from the medical system to welfare benefits.
While some saw merit in the proposal, others ridiculed it online.
“Why doesn’t Seoul build a Seoul Town in North Korea?” read a message on the Post’s Web site.
MTR chairman Frederick Ma (馬時亨) offered another proposal to construct rail links to Hong Kong’s container terminals, where groups have suggested building apartments above the ports.
That proposal sparked concerns about a possible conflict of interest, as Ma is a director of Canadian energy giant Husky Energy, part owned by the conglomerate headed by Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing (李嘉誠).
The conglomerate headed by Li also operates container ports around the world, including in Hong Kong.