Albert Lai was nominated as an Earth Champion for his personal dedication to environmental work especially in promoting public participation processes in Hong Kong.
He has played an active role in the engineering and environmental sectors for over thirty years. Having led the Hong Kong NGO delegation to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, he has taken a leading role in advocating for the implementation of sustainable development strategies in Hong Kong.
Albert’s “projects” are vast and wide, but his body of work could be summarised as heritage conservation, environmental planning (built/urban and natural) water protection and fighting social injustices.
Albert has been member, chairman, founding chairman or director of various associations – e.g. Civic Party Vice-Chairman; Conservancy Association; Citizen Envisioning @ Harbour, Conservancy Association Centre for Heritage, Hong Kong People’s Council for Sustainable Development etc.
Various notable campaigns in the past, and present include:
- Relocating tannery industry from delicate areas (new Territories) to Kwai Chung and application of infrastructures and facilities to minimise the pollution caused by this industry.
- 2002-2004- Long Valley Campaign – fighting and winning against the KCR (train corporation) from building a railway across Hong Kong’s largest freshwater wetland.
- Convincing developers and government in preserving monuments and heritage buildings e.g. the present LegCo building, Tsim Sha Tsui Hill ex-Marine Police Headquarters etc.
Albert is addressing social justice/injustice; heritage conservation (built environment); water issues; natural ecology.
Empowering the public to speak up, and letting them know they can make a difference in the government’s policy making; that the public can participate in the policy-making process.
Albert has a passion for justice. He has been influenced since joining Hong Kong’s oldest green group in 1974, the Conservancy Association (set up in 1968).
Locally (Hong Kong)
Tangible and intangible – Policy changes – where a new directive for policy making must include assessment of heritage value; conservation of heritage buildings; instilling awareness in the youths and people of Hong Kong they can make a difference.
Water pollution issues – cross/border effects; the Pearl River Delta is looking towards Hong Kong as an example and this could spur improve in standards of practices such as environmental protection.
Long Valley Wet land in Hong Kong is an international migratory route for birds. Protecting it is crucial.
The social effects of the project are environmental (built or natural, urban planning) and heritage issues; many Hong Kongers are victims of bad urban-planning. There is a need for the setting up of planning alliances and planning ordinances, summoning like-minded individuals to work together.
Make people feel empowered; make them aware of their own rights; get them involved in debates; adopting evidence-based advocacy; legitimising of environmental issues – that they are not dissident nor fringe concerns!
The process is continuous process; being involved in institutional changes in the government has sustained, lasting effect. There are barriers facing people in moving forward. These are the political system/lack of democracy. There is an institutional barrier preventing people having more say in city planning.