Course:FRST270/Wiki Projects/Stakeholder Conflicts in Victoria Park, Hong Kong

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Stakeholder Conflicts in Victoria Park, Hong Kong

This case study focuses on community forestry in Victoria Park of Hong Kong. This park is rich in biodiversity and home to many endangered plants and animals. In Hong Kong, “[Community forest’s] the main contribution probably rests with their social rather than environmental functions.”[1] Furthermore, it has an economic value from the housing market and tourism. We will explore the benefits and drawbacks for interested and affected stakeholders within this park. Many public parks in Hong Kong were built on state lands, which allowed the government to have decision making power over the other stakeholders. The issue that will be discussed in this paper is the conflict between the government and park users arise from illegal gatherings by protesters due to political issues. The management of community forests will also be discussed along with recommendations for the future.


Description

Hong Kong Flower Market 2017


Victoria Park, which is located in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, it is one of the largest public parks in Hong Kong, “this 19-hectare space houses ample public facilities for all who visit, including eight football pitches, four basketball courts and even an Olympic-sized, and recently furnished, swimming pool.”[2]

This park was established in October 1957 and was named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, this park was a typhoon shelter for fishing boats but that idea was quickly dismissed due to the decline of the fishing industry. Victoria Park is famous for the statue of Queen Victoria located in the main entrance of the park; this status witnessed two historic events in Hong Kong. The first is World War Two, during this time, the Japanese took control of Hong Kong and decided to bring this status back to Japan, but soon after their defeat, it was given back to Hong Kong (which was under British’s reign at this point in time). The second incident is when Hong Kong was returned to China from the British after 156 years, not everyone is happy with this decision and one individual decided to smash the nose of the status and spray painted it with red. This act caught the attention of the public and introduced many to the Victoria Park.

The park is home to over 14 species of trees, flowers, and animals, especially birds. Also, it is huge in terms of social and economic value from hosting political gatherings to promoting tourism in Hong Kong. This park hosts the biggest and busiest night market in Hong Kong and is a gathering place for domestic workers (mostly housekeepers from the Philippines) on holidays.

Majority of the park is currently managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD); it is a branch of the Hong Kong government that has the power to make decisions relating to this park.

Tenure and administrative arrangements

Map of Hong Kong

There are three crucial dates to remember for Hong Kong’s tenure arrangement: Before 1997, from 1997 to 2047, and after 2047.

Before 1997, Hong Kong was under Britain’s rule, “In Hong Kong, virtually all land is leasehold, except a small plot of land granted to St John's Cathedral in Central.” [1] All lands were leased to users for 75, 99, or 999-year terms. Victoria Park was no exception, it was a State-owned national forest managed by the British government until July 1st, 1997.

On July 1st, 1997, Hong Kong was returned to Mainland China. After the reunification, the government introduced the Joint Declaration policy in order to tackle all the land lease issues.

From 1997-2047, the park is and will be managed by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. They will be responsible for the management, development, as well as the lease until 2047. With the Joint Declaration policy, the leases before 1997 (known as the Crown lease) as well as the leases granted after (known as the Government leases) remained unchanged and has to follow these four principles[3]:

(a) all leases, including rights of renewal extending beyond 30 June 1997 are allowed to continue; (b) all leases in the New Territories that expired before 30 June 1997 may be extended for a further fifty years until 30 June 2047 (c) all leases on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon that expired before 30 June 1997 without an option to renew could be renewed by the Crown at an annual rent equivalent to 3% of the rateable value without additional premium; and (d) new leases of land may be granted for terms expiring not later than 30 June 2047.

After 2047, however, no rules were set to deal with the management of tenure issues. This raises many concerns from the public, especially the power that the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region holds compare to the government of China.

In the year 2000, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department was formed to manage all parks in Hong Kong, a branch from the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Rules and regulations on accessibility and property rights to Victoria Park are determined by this branch in the government[4]. Rules weren’t enforced very strictly since Hong Kong believes in freedom of speech and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, in most case, does not want to challenge these rights. Yet, the public decided to test their limit by hosting illegal gatherings in order to protest the government’s decision on certain political issues. This recently incident forces the hand of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, therefore, laws were enforced more strictly because of these protesters.

Affected and Interested Stakeholders

Stakeholder Objective Relative Power
Leisure and Cultural Services Department To maintain the order and condition of the park High
Protesters To speak up about political issues through illegal gathering Medium
Park users To access the park without the interference from protesters Low-Medium
Conservation groups To prevent further damage to the park condition Low

Assessment

Hong Kong Domestic Workers and Protesters in Victoria Park

To avoid getting into political views and arguments, this case study will only be discussed with Victoria Park as the focus.

The main opposition of the government in this case study was the protesters. The protesters had a negative impact in this area by occupying park users’ area or leaving behind garbage after each protest. These protesters did not have much power to begin with, their power was mostly human rights and freedom of speech, but as time pass, more and more people joined the group and created one of the bigger protests in Hong Kong. Their power grew along with the number of people in each protest, they grew to the point where the government has identical power and has to listen to their concern and request. The protesters used this power to have their voice be heard.

To assess the relative power of the park users, we need to understand the importance of Victoria Park is to them, specifically the domestic workers that gather here during holidays. For many domestic workers, this is the only place that can make them feel at home and talk with others with similar struggles, and historical background. There are more than 330,000 foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong[5], and to put this into perspective, Vancouver Island has the population of 750,000. Just the domestic workers alone make up for half the population size in Vancouver Island. Their population, however, does not translate to the power they have over this issue since they aren’t exactly viewed as equal in the Hong Kong government point of view and many of them does not own a Hong Kong citizenship. Nevertheless, they did their best in protecting their turf by siding with the government and hold a peaceful protest.

Leisure and Cultural Services Department has the most power out of all the stakeholders due to government backing, with these powers, along with the police force, they have the ability to forcefully remove the protestors within Victoria Park.

Conservation groups and other NGOs were the smallest of the four main stakeholders, they hold little to no power because of the focus of this case study. They used their power to support the side that will do the least harm to Victoria Park’s trees and animal.

Again, because all lands in Hong Kong are State-owned and leased to other land users, this imbalance of power make discussion and debates extremely difficult between stakeholders. All the other groups did not have much power for discussion and decided to use action to show their intention.

Discussion

The aim and intentions of the project are to solve any misunderstanding between the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, park users, and protesters.

Aside from political issues that have been hindering Hong Kong’s growth, lack of communication and problem-solving skills are the leading obstacles in Hong Kong. “Recognizing that multiple [stakeholders] exist at the local level is a useful step forward because it forces researchers to consider their different and dynamic interests.”[6] Considering that a majority of the stakeholders did not participate in the discussion sessions set up by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department with the intention to solve the issue with Victoria Park occupation indicates how unwilling the protesters were to communicate with the government. Not only did the protesters occupy the public park, evidence suggests that there are negative impacts in the park from the numerous protests. Tree roots were damaged due to the compacting of soil from protesters.

However, from the protester's point of view, the rules and regulations of the said discussion sessions which are set without any local representatives in the decision-making process are made to maximize government’s objectives.

Recommendations

“Community-based forest management (CBFM) is a model of forest management in which a community takes part in decision making and implementation, and monitoring of activities affecting the natural resources around them.”[7] In Menzies paper, we learned that it is often better to have community-based forest management or common property, “institutional arrangements for the cooperative (shared, joint, collective) use, management, and sometimes ownership of natural resources.”[8] Menzies and McKean both suggest common ownership is more beneficial and efficient in management.

In order to improve the quality of debates, we can hire mediators and expert for advice to ensure no bias opinion. With that type of management, we can have the local communities and other stakeholders involved in the decision-making process and give stakeholders power to discuss. This is especially important to the local communities since they are the affected stakeholders and their life will be directly affected. If the public has the power and freedom to manage their own public park, it will be for mutual benefits of the government and local communities, the government must allow local groups or representative from each stakeholder to be at the decision-making table and make a plan that is beneficial for all parties involved, this will be the ideal situation for Hong Kong and for Victoria Park.

References

  1. Lam, K. C., Ng, S. L., Hui, W. C., & Chan, P. K. (2005). Environmental quality of urban parks and open spaces in Hong Kong. Environmental monitoring and assessment, 111(1-3), 55-73.
  2. https://theculturetrip.com/asia/hong-kong/articles/the-history-of-victoria-park-hong-kong-in-1-minute/
  3. https://www.legco.gov.hk/research-publications/english/essentials-1617ise07-land-tenure-system-in-hong-kong.htm
  4. http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/en/index.html
  5. http://www.censtatd.gov.hk/hkstat/sub/gender/labour_force/
  6. Agrawal, A., & Gibson, C. C. (1999). Enchantment and disenchantment: The role of community in natural resource conservation. World Development, 27(4), 629-649.
  7. Menzies, N. K. (2007) Our Forest, Your Ecosystem, Their Timber: communities, conservation, and the state in community-based forest management. New York: Columbia University Press
  8. McKean, Margaret A. (2000) ‘Common property: What is it, what is it good for, and what makes it work?’ People and Forests: Communities, Institutions, and Governments. C. C. Gibson, M. A. McKean, and E. Ostrom, eds. pp. 27-55. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.


Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Course:FRST270.