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Visa rules scupper Hong Kong developer’s plan for a new city between Dublin and Belfast


Hong Kong skyline at night. Picture by Leung Cho Pan

Hong Kong skyline at night. Picture by Leung Cho Pan

Hong Kong skyline at night. Picture by Leung Cho Pan

A Hong Kong real-estate businessman who had proposed to build a city in Ireland to host 50,000 emigrants has said he has abandoned the project over the State’s immigration laws.

Ivan Ko, the founder of the Victoria Harbour Group (VHG), an international investment company, wanted to find a 50 sq km site between Dublin and Belfast to create a new city, named 21st Century New City.

But the plan, which was discussed with the Department of Foreign Affairs, is now off due to Ireland’s immigration policy, which Ko has said “currently is just providing to investment immigrants”.

“The target group which VHG wants to serve are not those who can migrate under investment schemes but rather the mass middle to lower middle-income group,” he said.

The businessman said his company’s objective was to provide an opportunity for Hong Kong people “to build a harmonious community in the free society of the host country”.

However, such an initiative would only work with the support of the host country which, he said, was of “paramount importance to a new city”.

The plan for the 21st Century New City, which would have become Ireland’s fifth biggest city, has been seen by the Sunday Independent and included:

Dedicated pedestrian-only zones, cycle routes and trail walks

•Providing platforms to connect with neighbours open-air performance spaces, amphitheatre and creative art and cultural provision.

•Usage of drone technologies and other advanced service solutions such as self-driving cars.

•An urban environment where people have access to a wide variety of mobility solutions but where the pedestrian is always placed first

•Diverse community offering food and drink markets supporting local businesses, artists and makers

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•Community allotments, herb gardens and shared green spaces, for growth, play and recreational activities. But instead of Ireland, Ko’s company is now in discussion with the landowners of three sites in England.

Since the UK government provided the “generous offer” of the British National Overseas (BNO) visa, Ko’s focus shifted from Ireland.

“For Ireland, the difficulty is the immigration scheme. So, we have dropped our plan in Ireland since the BNO visa has been announced.

“Having said that, we are still interested should Ireland provides similar immigration concessions to Hong Kong people. I hope our decision of not pursuing Ireland at this point in time can be understood.”

He said Canada, Australia and possibly even the US is the company’s next priority after it develops projects in the UK.

“The lengthy and uncertain planning process has been the main hurdle. The good news is the welcoming and positive attitude of the UK government and the atmosphere of the media here and the general public.”

The State is currently weighing between providing immigration concessions to Hong Kong people against the economic benefits they want to maintain with China.

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