Super-Prison Proposal Scrapped

i Oct 12th No Comments by

Super-Prison Proposal Shelved Indefinitely
After a massive lobbying effort in which thousands of signatures

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were gathered, hundreds of letters were written, and numerous meetings with government officials, Legislative Councillors, District Councillors and Rural Committee members, LIM was pleased to note that the government announced on October 12, 2004 its plans to shelve the project indefinitely.






Background to the proposed Super-Prison

In March 2003, it was discovered that the government was seeking HK$47M funding for a detailed engineering study for the building of a super prison on 114 hectares of land reclaimed from the sea between the islands of Hei Ling Chau and Sunshine Island, plus a massive fixed crossing to South Lantau. There was no alternative site proposed.

“No open public consultation had been undertaken and the shock of this travesty brought together, in a very short time, a number of people who created the Living Islands Movement.” — LIM.

Our efforts resulted in Legco approving only HK$7M for an initial feasibility study. This gave LIM some time for further study of the prison problem and to find a better solution for all concerned, before Legco would meet again to (likely) approve the next stage of the process.

However, it became apparent that one reason for the government selecting this site was that it “had no value”. This revelation gave LIM its prime aim, which is to raise the understanding of the whole community that the islands have huge economic value if they are nurtured and sustainably developed.

Artist's rendition of the prison and road-link from Silvermine Bay (Mui Wo)

LIM’s Action

One of the recognized aspects of sustainable development is eco-tourism, which would offer visitors interesting and enjoyable experiences plus the opportunity to appreciate the natural environment of land and sea, local cultures, traditions, music and history.

In particular, the fruits of this would create a sustainable future for the indigenous population, which has been neglected for the last 100 years.

We therefore undertook two fields of study: The first (and ongoing) study is to show how this vision of the islands can be realised for the benefit of all; the second was to analyse the merits (if any) of the government’s argument for a super prison and to identify alternative sites for prison development that meet operational needs far better than does the government proposal.


Super-Prison: Cartoons

i Oct 1st No Comments by

The super-prison saga drew a number of barbed cartoons published in the Hong Kong press.

This is a selection gleaned from the pens of Gavin Coates and Larry Feign which ran in two Hong Kong English-language newspapers, the Standard and the South China Morning Post.






Gavin Coates — The Standard

Larry Feign: South China Morning Post

Larry Feign: South China Morning Post

Larry Feign: South China Morning Post

Larry Feign: South China Morning Post

Larry Feign: South China Morning Post

Gavin Coates — The Standard

Gavin Coates — The Standard

Gavin Coates — The Standard



Super-Prison: Media Reports

i Sep 30th No Comments by

Coming …..

Letter: Super-Prison

i Jul 25th No Comments by

Proposal to site a Superprison on Hei Ling Chau Island.

  • Unnecessarily and irreversibly despoil a scenic area, and create a huge blot on the landscape
  • The bridge would also be visually quite unacceptable, and the prison would bring extra traffic to the South Lantau Road.
  • Hei Ling Chau is the wrong place to build it — necessitates 1.5 billion further taxpayer dollars for a bridge and huge future operating costs
  • The project is ill-conceived and based on suspect figures.  The Correctional Services Department admits that from an operational viewpoint, it is the worst option
  • Security Branch admits prison overcrowding is caused by short-termers and mainland overstayers
  • We must not spend 12 billion  taxpayer dollars, and despoil for future generations a scenic area to house such people

We need a solution that is quicker, cheaper and more flexible.  This project should be cancelled so we can all have a re-think about this expensive, catastrophic and irreversible blunder.

The case for  a Superprison is very weak


Vastly expensive ($12 billion – the bridge to the prison will be longer than the Macau-Taipa bridge and cost $1.5billion)

Based on highly dubious figures and projections.  Security Branch admits 30% of prisoners are just mainland prostitutes and overstayers.  Recent Government overall population projections have been downgraded, so we probably do not need more prison space anyway (an article in the South China Morning Post on July 7, 2004 says even these new figures are still considerably overstated).

“Acute prison overcrowding” is claimed — so why proceed with something which will take 10 years to build? We need more flexible solutions — inexpensively refurbishing and extending existing prisons –bringing work to local contractors unlike the specialized engineering for the Superprison and bridge

–       Present prisons are claimed to be “archaic” – strange, since one was built as late as 1999.

–       Hei Ling Chau is operationally highly disadvantageous (Security Branch admits this) – remote, necessitating lengthy journeys for staff and suppliers, accessible via a single bridge, giving insufficient escape from disaster or prison riot  (unacceptable from a risk management point of view.)

–       Government’s attempted justification: transferring all Hong Kong’s prisons together will give an ‘economy of scale’ of $125M/yr on staff savings: a ridiculous 0.8% of the capital cost.  This  “economy of scale” may be true for Security Branch but it ignores the cost of the effects on citizens of Hong Kong and its economics:

–       the extra costs they will incur from transport of prisoners, staff,  and supplies in a place so far away by road and ferry

–       the increased cost and inconvenience for prisoners’ visitors;

–       two thirds of the capacity of the new prison (ie $8 Billion) merely replicates existing facilities which are then abandoned




–       “Superprisons build supercriminals” Superprisons elsewhere are meeting strong opposition from penologists and psychologists- also they are susceptible to terrorist attacks and epidemics (notably SARS and, increasingly in the USA, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus);


–       In HK, there is strong objection from the public, from green groups, from prison visitors and senior members of the judiciary.  (Hardly anyone supports the proposal outside of a small part of government, the engineers and the construction industry.)



This project has not been looked at in the overall context of Hong Kong and its environment.


The case for it is very weak, and certainly not strong enough to justify spending $12 billion which would


–       Be a  visual eyesore – massive bridge and a floodlit “gulag”

–       Destroy South Lantau as a place to live and place to visit.

–       Destroy for ever an area of natural beauty.

–       Destroy one of the few remaining rural areas available to Hong Kong citizens and arrest its sustainable development for recreation and tourism.

–       Destroy pristine seascape around the islands;

–       Destroy the rural calm for miles around – visible from Mui Wo, Discovery Bay, Disney, Peng Chau, Lamma, Cheung Chau, Chi Ma Wan, Nam Shan, and from much of Hong Kong, including Cyberport and the Peak.  Right beside jetfoil routes to Macau.   This seascape earmarked for ‘conservation’ by Planning Department (see the SW NT development strategy 2001, and 2030 plan)


There would be the following highly negative and irreversible environmental effects:



–       Big increase in traffic along S. Lantau road  (which is prone to landslips – has been blocked for 3 months at a time).

–       Traffic noise and heavy slow vehicles on narrow roads

–       Longer travel time to Tung Chung & airport

–       10 years of noise and dust


Visual / Noise

–       Light pollution – total loss of “night-sky” from floodlights and bridge lighting

– 24 hr. Noise from the prison, machinery, road, sea traffic for 10 years during construction



–       Water pollution caused by waste  (during construction and on-going)

–       Disruption of the rich natural marine species.


All the above are major and irreversible, and no amount of  “pretty pictures” and “Environmental Impact Aassessment” Reports can disguise this


Failure to “assign value”


This is vital aspect of the “value equation”.  The Hei Ling Chau location and its surroundings have not been given a value either in terms of sustaining its present “’existence value” nor in terms of future value to future generations as a vital “green lung” for  “Asia’s World City”


There is a powerful property lobby that has its eyes on the urban land that would be released by closing existing prison sites.  Thus we are expected to exchange our natural heritage for lucrative urban properties.


The loss, to the people of Hong Kong, through despoiling an area of natural beauty that government itself recommended be scheduled for conservation, leisure and tourism;  this also results in an economic loss from the growing demand for eco-tourism – a sector that offers the possibility of increasing our annual tourism earnings by up to HK$25Bn if properly developed.