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劉廼強 | 21st Jan 2010 | China Daily (Hong Kong Edition) | (23 Reads)

Watching those demonstrators staging a carnival in front of the Legislative Council in support of the filibuster against the construction of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed railway, one cannot help but wonder what exactly these people want? Among the many confusing demands, they actually said they do not want any further development in Hong Kong and would like to go back to agriculture, which they claim will provide 10,000 jobs. Let us take them seriously and follow through this argument and see what we will get.

To begin, let us set up a benchmark for discussion. The Chinese government has set a bottom line of 1.8 billion mu (120 million hectares) to be devoted to farmland and protected from encroachment by other usages as this is absolutely necessary to feed the 1.3 billion population. That is to say, we need about 1 hectare of land to feed 10 people. The total land area of Hong Kong is 110,000 hectares, including reclaimed land, and flat area suitable for agriculture is less than 30,000 hectares. That is to say, at the current level of technology, Hong Kong by itself can at most feed only about a population of 300,000.

What about the rest of the 6,700,000 people? They will have to import food from elsewhere. What shall we do to earn the foreign exchange to pay for their food, bearing in mind that all the flat land in the city is now devoted to agriculture? Moreover, to sustain the harvest to feed the 300,000, we will have to import chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which also cost money, and are not good for the environment.

If those dissidents are serious about their plan and actually put it into practice, the employment situation will be so bad that I am sure there will be more than 10,000 lining up for the agricultural jobs so created.

Clearly, developing agriculture is a joke. Economic development is necessary as long as it is sustainable, and building a high-speed railway is one of the necessary measures to achieve sustainability. The protestors complain there is no future for them, but if they say no to development, then there is literally no future whatsoever, not just for the young, but for everybody.

We have to say yes to development, as there is no alternative. Records show that our opportunistic dissident lawmakers were previously also in favor of the construction of the high-speed railway.