Potential locations for an extra public market in Tin Shui Wai are raised as the government’s plan for the long-anticipated public market is slammed for failing to cater everyone’s need.
For years, politicians and various organisations have been asking for a public market in Tin Shui Wai as the price in the privately-owned markets in town are deemed too high.
But when the proposal of building the first public market in Tin Shui Wai arrived at the Yuen Long District Council in October, not all councillors were pleased.
In the meeting, the councillors were presented with two designs of the new market to choose from—both of which are located next to the Tin Shui Wai MTR station in southern Tin Shui Wai. Councillors from northern Tin Shui Wai criticised that the location is too far for residents in the north. A motion to urge the government to build an extra public market in the mid or northern Tin Shui Wai received unanimous support.
“[For residents in the North,] there isn’t much difference from going to Yuen Long to shop,” said Luk Chung-hung, Tin Heng district councillor from the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU) who seconded the motion.
Luk and other members of the HKFTU met with Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee earlier this year to propose ideal locations for the public market in the north, including the Girl Guides facility on Tin Sau Road and Tin Sau Bazaar.
Luk said the current zoning of the Girl Guides facility allows a market to be built.
“The government can easily utilise the land and turn it into a public market,” he said. “[And] the operation of Tin Sau Bazaar isn’t very successful. We believe these two locations are worth considering.”
In the documents submitted to the District Council, the government stresses that locations suggested by the community have been considered. The MTR station is said to be “the location with the most potential” since it is “a transport hub connecting the whole Tin Shui Wai, making it competitive enough.” It is also stated that the government’s goal is “to find the most suitable location to cater all residents of Tin Shui Wai.”
But Fleco Mo Kai-hong, a member of the localist community organisation Tin Shui Wai New Force, believes the government simply does not want to deal with the complicated procedures of building the market on used land.
“They’re not trying to face challenges,” he said. “We’re not just asking for a new public market, but a public market that is close to where people live.”
Mo also has a place in mind where the public market should be built. He submitted an application to the Town Planning Board (TPB) in September to rezone the Tin Shui Wai Community Sports Ground on Tin Sau Road to allow a market to be built.
“We’re filing the application in order to force the government to consider our proposal,” he said.
Mo pointed out the problems of Luk’s suggested locations too. He said the Girl Guides facility is actually reserved for a future police station.
“It is unlikely that the Police Department would be willing to give up its right to use the land,” he said. “We didn’t pick Tin Sau Bazaar because of its smaller size. The potential number of hawkers would be lower.”
According to the Tin Shui Wai development programme in 1997, the location of the Girl Guides facility is designated for a divisional police station. The TPB’s documents this year reaffirm its intention.
But Mo’s application has faced with opposition from rugby players, the main users of the sports ground. The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) organised a petition to preserve the pitch by calling people to send letters to the TPB. Over 3,000 responses have been recorded.
“Let’s not forget the government has already pledged to build a new market…elsewhere in [Tin Shui Wai],” said Robbie McRobbie, CEO of the Hong Kong Rugby Union. “It would send a strong message that sport is not valued in our society [if the application is approved].”
Chan Yiu-kong, a rugby player who practices at the pitch every week, said the ground is one of the few rugby pitches in Hong Kong.
“I’m not saying public market isn’t important, but there’re many markets in Yuen Long district already. In contrast, there aren’t many sports fields,” he said.
In response, Mo said his intention was to spark discussions instead of getting rid of the pitch.
“It is totally unexpected that our application has brought up the issue of limited sports venues as well,” he said. “We hope we can continue to engage with all parties to see if we can consent on the use of land in Tin Shui Wai.”
The application will be discussed by the TPB on December 21, 2018.
Chan is also a resident of Tin Shui Wai. He believes more can be done to settle the disputes on the public market.
“The government should tackle the problem of overpriced goods in Link REIT’s market.,” he said. “Building a new public market isn’t a solution that tackles the heart of the problem.”