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January 1st, 2009:

Beijing To Remove 350,000 Vehicles Off Inner-City Roads

Updated on Jan 01, 2009 – Reuters

Beijing, beset by choking traffic and heavy air pollution, will take more than 350,000 high-polluting vehicles off inner-city streets from today, local media reported. The capital has banned cars from the roads on one out of five weekdays based on the number of licence plates as part of a six-month trial in the wake of broader restrictions during the Olympic Games in August that cleared skies and eased congestion. Drivers of high-emissions vehicles, known as “yellow-label” cars, would be fined 100 yuan (HK$114) if found to be driving within the city’s Fifth Ring Road, a highway on Beijing’s outskirts, after a three-month grace period, The Beijing News reported. The measure stands to take about 10 per cent of the city’s cars off the road. Beijing currently has about 3.5 million registered cars.

Citizens Are Now Standing Up To Developers

Updated on Jan 01, 2009 – SCMP

John Cheng (“Strike balance between causes”, December 25), is concerned that one of our developers is being unfairly picked on.

Given that all of Hong Kong’s richest people are in property, one finds is difficult to view them as innocent victims. There are ample reasons to pick on all developers – Sino Land, and others, for massive tower-wall projects over MTR stations; Cheung Kong and Henderson Land for blocking natural light and air in North Point; New World and Wharf hell-bent on building concrete walls on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront; Swire for its controversial Castle Steps project in Mid-Levels; and Sun Hung Kai for its Manhattan Hill podium. The list is endless but, as Mr Cheng has written a number of letters supporting the Mega Tower project, the developer he refers to is presumably Hopewell Holdings.

He says: “Hong Kong needs mature political leaders to lead us into the future.” We certainly do and these leaders must have the courage to stand up for their constituents who have had their basic human rights to fresh air, natural light and public open space trampled upon by long-standing cosy arrangements between our government and developers.

The Mega Tower saga is a textbook example of such collusion.

A lapsed application is the basis for this development. To date, no document that validates the extension of building approval in 1996 has ever been produced.

The approval was not extended and the developer and the administration will do anything to avoid any legal process that rules on this and reveals collusion and lapses in due process.

Then there is the question as to how Hopewell was allowed to build QRE Plaza on a designated green site and why the secretary for development is trying to manipulate the Town Planning Board to retrospectively rezone the site. Here, we open another can of worms. Hopewell is not being picked on. Opposition to the Mega Tower is the beginning of the revolt of the middle class against the forces that leave us with a quality of life well below that of the working class in other communities. Young and upcoming politicians are astute enough to recognise this.

Citizens have found their voice and will no longer tolerate being peasants in their own land. Projects that are not compatible with the general good will be contested.

Candy Tam, Wan Chai