Will functional constituency lawmakers save the government again?
This is the question being asked as officials seek to overcome cross-party opposition to the encroachment of a rubbish dump into a country park.
Heavy lobbying is expected in the coming days against a Legislative Council resolution to be tabled next week seeking to block an order issued by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen to change the Clear Water Bay Country Park boundary.
The government wants to allow five hectares of the park to be swallowed up by an extension of the Tseung Kwan O landfill that will also spill over 15 hectares of an adjoining industrial park.
But the Democratic Party, Liberal Party, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, League of Social Democrats and Civic Party oppose the order, citing the government's failure to resolve nuisances arising from the landfill in the past decade.
The five parties hold most of the 30 seats returned from the directly elected geographical constituencies. Even if these lawmakers pass the resolution, under the split voting system that requires a majority in both sections of Legco, the government needs only 15 votes from the functional constituencies, stacked with its allies, to avoid defeat. There are 29 functional constituency legislators.
Officials yesterday downplayed this traditional advantage, saying they would lobby hard to avoid a setback to the waste-treatment strategy.
"We can't say for sure these [functional constituency] votes are definitely ours ... right now we hope to meet all lawmakers to give them more information on the bigger picture of the problem and what we have done," an environment official said.
The extension would add six years to the dumping capacity of the landfill and ease the burden on two other tip sites, in Tuen Mun and North District, which would otherwise have to accommodate 1,000 trips by rubbish trucks daily. It was not clear whether the rest of the Tseung Kwan O extension would go ahead without the five hectares from the country park.
Five functional constituency lawmakers said they had not made up their minds about next Wednesday's vote. Dr Patrick Lau Sau-shing from the architectural, surveying and planning sector and Peter Cheung Kwok-che from the social welfare sector said they had reservations over the landfill expansion plan.
Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, from the industrial sector, said he would discuss it with his three Legco allies, who were also functional constituency lawmakers. Samson Tam Wai-ho, from the information technology sector, said he would discuss with Paul Chan Mo-po, Chan Kin-por, Lam Tai- fai and Dr Leung Ka-lau, with whom he forms a loose alliance.
A walk in the park?
The number of functional constituency votes the government needs to retain its plan to change the boundary is: 15