Playing opposites can be a grave mistake

Editorial | Mary Ma 9 Apr 2021

Death is everyone's destiny. To cope with an estimated 54,000 deaths a year between now and 2033, a rather remote site - Sandy Ridge, between Lo Wu and Man Kam To - has long been identified as one of the strategic sites for development into a super cemetery.

A problem facing policymakers is that, while work is already at an advanced stage, the plot sits in the future city center of the Greater Bay Area - and some pro-Beijing lawmakers insist the project has to stop.

But what can the administration do about it?

There's little doubt that Shenzhen - or at least its residents facing the cemetery from across the river - would like it to stop, with the huge cemetery that will be the final resting place for tens of thousands of niches and an army of crematory facilities being relocated away from their sight.

Yesterday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor insisted it is too late to comply even though it was criticized by a pro-government lawmaker.

In face of the criticisms from Gary Chan Hak-kan and damning editorials run by two state-owned newspapers in the SAR, Lam reiterated that she would not reverse the plan but, instead, would ask her subordinates to beautify the facilities to make them as least offensive as possible.

Perhaps the DAB legislator should be more forgiving as he was already a lawmaker when the plan to develop Sandy Ridge into a massive cemetery was announced in the 2010/11 policy address.

Did Chan vote to give the project the necessary funding afterwards? He and his peers should stop being absent minded. Better still, they should remember that local residents had been consulted on the project for a long time.

The last thing Chan should do is act like he is representing Shenzhen more than his SAR constituents.

It's true that it will be very difficult for the current government to stop the project even though it is annoying to our Shenzhen neighbors. Building of the super cemetery is already in an advanced stage and the facilities are expected to come into service next year. Had Lam's predecessors known President Xi Jinping would come up with a plan to turn the Pearl Delta estuary into an ambitious Greater Bay Area, they might have shelved the cemetery plan in time.

But it is unfair to blame the current administration for something inherited from the past.

Having said that, it's also true that stuffing a cemetery large enough to house 200,000 niches, a host of funeral parlors and visitor facilities in the middle of the Greater Bay Area development could be an eyesore.

That is a historical issue that both Hong Kong and Shenzhen have to face and sort out together.

Meanwhile, the DAB and others remaining in the Legislative Council have to understand that it's just not viable to stop the project now.

Although Chan and others may have come under pressure to play the opposition role following the disappearance of the pan-democrats, it is in neither their or other's interest to oppose for the sake of playing the opposition.

Otherwise, they risk becoming true "loyalist garbage" as cursed by a mainland academic.

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