LCQ12: Naming of geographical places

Following is a question by the Hon Alvin Yeung and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (December 14):
At present, the naming of geographical places is not subject to any statutory regulation.  Under the current arrangements, the Geographical Place Names Board (the Board) established under the Survey and Mapping Office of the Lands Department (LandsD) is responsible for the establishment, implementation and review of the procedures for the formulation, verification and adoption of geographical place names.  It is learnt that the Board comprises representatives from relevant government departments, including the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, the Home Affairs Department, the Information Services Department, the LandsD.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective numbers of representatives on the Board from various government departments;

(2) of the current general procedures for naming geographical places and amending existing names; whether such procedures have stipulated that (i) public consultation meetings must be held and (ii) a minimum number of such meetings must be held; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) of the criteria adopted by the Board, when conducting consultations with representatives of residents and local organisations, for determining whether or not the views collected should be adopted;

(4) whether the Board accepts views given orally by representatives of residents; if the Board does not, of the reasons for that; and

(5) of the channels through which the public may raise objections to and make recommendations on the geographical place names adopted by the Board; whether the Board will restart the consultation procedures upon receipt of such views and recommendations; if the Board will not, of the reasons for that?

My reply to the various parts of the Hon Alvin Yeung's question is as follows:
(1) The membership of the Geographical Place Names Board (GPNB) comprises representatives of the relevant departments.  Apart from the posts of Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Secretary being taken up by representatives of the Lands Department (LandsD), other members include one representative each of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, the Home Affairs Department, the Hongkong Post, the Information Services Department, the LandsD and the Marine Department, two representatives of the Rating and Valuation Department, and one representative of the Official Languages Division of the Civil Service Bureau.
(2) After receiving proposals for naming geographical places and amending existing geographical names, the GPNB will preliminarily assess the proposals and seek advice from the government departments concerned.  Representatives of local residents and local organisations will be consulted via the District Offices of the Home Affairs Department on these proposals before submission to the GPNB for consideration.  Upon the GPNB's endorsement, the proposals will be submitted to the relevant District Councils (DCs) for consideration.  After these DCs have endorsed the concerned proposals, notices of the proposed geographical place names will be advertised in local English and Chinese newspapers and posted at the locations concerned, the relevant District Offices, and the relevant District Lands Offices, District Survey Offices as well as the Map Publications Centre (Hong Kong) of the Survey and Mapping Office under the LandsD for public consultation.  If members of the public hold different views on the proposals, their views will be submitted to the GPNB for further assessment and decision.  If no objection from the public is received, the GPNB will adopt the proposed geographical place names.
As mentioned above, the existing procedure includes various forms of public consultation.
(3) The criteria generally considered by the GPNB include:
(i) There should be a practical need in introducing new names in written documents or in verbal communication;
(ii) The names chosen should generally be neutral and not related to individual persons, institutions or goods;
(iii) Complicated or rarely-used Chinese characters should be avoided in geographical place names; and
(iv) Requests for name changes will only be considered with sufficient justifications, such as when existing geographical place names are vulgar and may cause embarrassment in verbal communication or in writing.
(4) The GPNB will examine all the views received, including verbal ones of residents' representatives. Whether written or verbal, the views will facilitate the GPNB's further consideration as long as they are clear and specific.
(5) If members of the public hold different views on geographical place names which have already been adopted by the GPNB, they may submit new proposals to the GPNB for consideration. The GPNB will address and consider the views received in accordance with the aforementioned procedure for naming geographical places.

Ends/Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:55