【明報專訊】The government is building a "Super Funeral City" in Sandy Ridge, a region adjacent to Shenzhen. Shenzhen citizens have voiced their opposition. The Hong Kong government has emphasised that it adjusted the plan in response to the opinions in question a few years ago in a bid to minimise the impact of the facilities on residents living in their vicinity.
Shenzhen and Hong Kong are inseparable neighbours. The ideal way for them to "get along" is to seek mutual benefit and a win-win situation. While occasional discord and disagreements are not unexpected, it is important to adhere to the principle of equality and respect, and engage in mutual understanding, mutual accommodation and more communication. The past decade or so has seen repeated conflicts between Hong Kong and the mainland, many of which were related to bread-and-butter matters. Many Hong Kong people have been unhappy, and there were times mainlanders were also disgruntled. The Sandy Ridge Funeral City project, which has provoked criticism from many Shenzhen netizens recently, is an example.
Hong Kong is plagued by the problem of land, with "homes" for both the living and the dead in short supply. In 2012, the government proposed to build a funeral city in Sandy Ridge, which would boast funeral parlours, crematoriums, columbarium niches and memorial gardens in one place. It is expected to provide about 200,000 columbarium niches. Related land formation work began in 2017 and has gone on for more than three years. It is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The government will later apply for funding from the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council to advance the construction of the "Funeral City".
The choice of Sandy Ridge as the site of the Super Funeral City would not have surprised anyone ten years ago. In terms of historical background, the Sandy Ridge Cemetery was established as early as 1950, and has been providing funeral facilities over the past half-century or so. Strictly speaking, the construction of a funeral city is merely an expansion of the cemetery's scale and functions. In terms of geographical location, Sandy Ridge is far away from Hong Kong's urban areas with no other facilities nearby for other developmental purposes. But the views and feelings of Shenzhen residents living across the river are very different. The Luohu District of Shenzhen is across the river from Sandy Ridge. At the most proximate point, they are only about 300 metres apart. Luohu is a bustling, densely populated region crowded with buildings. Many people have misgivings about funeral facilities and are worried that the smoke billowing from crematories will affect the air quality and living environment in surrounding areas. The news of the Hong Kong government's advancement of a Super Funeral City project has provoked a backlash among the people of Shenzhen. Some netizens are angered by the Hong Kong government's construction of such an obnoxious facility on the border. It is not difficult to understand such feelings if one puts oneself in the shoes of the other side.
When the Sandy Ridge Funeral City plan was first proposed, there was not the concept of integrated development in the Greater Bay Area. Some people believe that the Hong Kong government should re-plan the relevant land to match the future development of Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Theoretically, this is no doubt an option. But it might not be viable in practice. After all, there is a lack of various ancillary facilities in the local area. We should not restart everything from scratch on a whim. In Hong Kong, it is not unusual for many large-scale development projects to take 20 years to go from planning to completion. If the Super Funeral City plan in Sandy Ridge is shelved and relocated to a new site, it can easily be delayed after 2035 before the plan can be completed. This will seriously affect the supply of funeral services in Hong Kong in the medium-to-long term. Re-planning Sandy Ridge is easier said than done. It is necessary to think clearly about the consequences and repercussions.
put yourself in sb's shoes : to be in, or imagine that you are in, another person's situation, esp. when it is an unpleasant or difficult one
viable : that can be done; that will be successful
ancillary : providing necessary support to the main work or activities of an organisation