Fin-terest Group: Greenpeace protests Lantau development with dramatic mermaid video

An eco-conscious young man wheels a mermaid, played by Hong Kong actress Lana Wong Ha-wai, across Lantau in a new video from Greenpeace. Screengrab via Greenpeace.
An eco-conscious young man wheels a mermaid, played by Hong Kong actress Lana Wong Ha-wai, across Lantau in a new video from Greenpeace. Screengrab via Greenpeace.

Forget the pink dolphins, won’t someone, for the love of God, think of the mermaids!

That appeared to be the message, sorta, of a new video by Greenpeace released in protest of a controversial government plan to spend billions of dollars creating an artificial island of Lantau half the size of Kowloon.

The East Lantau Metropolis (ELM) was proposed by the government last year as a solution to the city’s housing problem, with officials revealing last month that the project will cost an eye-popping HK$624 billion (about US$79 billion). Authorities hope to start work on reclaiming land by 2025, with an eye on allowing residents to move to the island in 2032.

The controversial infrastructure undertaking inspired thousands to take to the streets in October to protest what many have called a wasteful “white elephant” — one that conservationists say will affect the habitats of the city’s pink dolphins.

But while pink dolphins are all well and good, has anyone spared a thought for the city’s mermaids?

Thank goodness for Greenpeace, which uploaded a video late last night featuring former actress Lana Wong Ha-wai as a mermaid sitting in a bathtub clutching a picture of the ocean and surrounded by trash.

In the video, a visibly concerned young man rushes to mer-Wong’s aid, and dutifully agrees to fulfill her request to be taken to the ocean. Placing the bathtub on a conveniently available cart, and with considerable effort, the young ecowarrior trundles the stranded siren across Lantau Island to the open arms of the sea.

In voiceover, mid-trundle, Wong notes that Lantau Island has the longest shoreline in Hong Kong and is known for its natural beauty, asking, “Why do we need to sacrifice one of the most beautiful places we have?”

She ends the video with a direct-to-camera appeal: “Young people, let’s protect Lantau and not harm the ocean.”

In a brief intro to the video, Wong says “of course” she opposes the ELM plan, asking, “Is Hong Kong really running out of space? Do we really need to reclaim land?”

Indeed, the merits of the project are up for debate. In a column last month following the revelation of the project’s astronomical price, former South China Morning Post staffer Tom Holland noted that rather than a lack of suitable land or available housing units, Hong Kong actually has a glut of both.

Instead, government policies that have driven up real estate prices while encouraging speculation in the sector are to blame for the lack of affordable housing, he argues.

Reactions to Greenpeace’s video, meanwhile, have been largely positive, with most of the praise aimed at Wong herself.

“Guarding the sea is the same as guarding Hong Kong,” one commenter said, calling Wong, “so meaningful.”

“Hong Kong Chief Executive Wong Ha-Wai,” crowed another.

Wong, now well into her 80s, is affectionately referred to as Ha-wai BB, or “Baby Ha-wai,” and first made her name in the Hong Kong film industry in the 1950s. Now, she is better known for her high-profile public appearances and glamorous attire.

Every Chinese New Year, for instance, Wong has turned up at the Wong Tai Sin Temple, dedicated to the Great Immortal God Wong. Each year, thousands of worshippers gather to plant incense at the temple starting at the stroke of midnight, the thinking being that the earlier you plant it, the luckier you will be in the coming year.

For more than a decade, Wong has been first in line, always dressed in a dramatic costume for the occasion.

(See if you can spot her in this video from this year.)

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