A man set his left arm on fire after government officials attempted to reclaim the land at a well-known monastery in the Sai Kung district.

Lau Kin-kwok, who is believed to be the person in charge of the Po Yin Fat Yuen in Tiu Keng Leng, refused to leave the temple when officials tried to reclaim the land Tuesday by standing on the temple’s rooftop.

Lau then set his left arm on fire after police and firefighters stormed into the temple and subdued a male and a female inside. Firefighters extinguished the fire and Lau was later subdued and sent to Tseung Kwan O hospital for treatment. He remains in serious condition.

Po Yin Fat Yuen man seen setting his left hand on fire. Photo: Apple Daily

The Po Yin Fat Yuen temple was originally built in 1956 in the squatter area of Tiu Keng Leng in the Sai Kung district. The temple was relocated from its original location inside Tiu Keng Leng village in 1999 after Lau protested against the demolition of the temple. The government leased the land to the temple under a short-term loan, and it retains the right to take back the land with a three-month notice.

The controversy began when the Sai Kung District Council passed the bill to build a Tseung Kwan O Heritage Hiking Trail and History and Heritage Information Centre last year. The authorities then issued a notice to terminate the tenancy last July, indicating that the tenancy will end in November 2014. Authorities then attempted to claim back the land on Tuesday.

File photo. Photo: GovHK

Apple Daily reported that Lau was “extremely angry” over the government’s proposal to demolish a historically valuable temple. He was quoted as saying that the plan to demolish the temple for the construction of the heritage hiking trail was contradictory in itself.

On the other hand, Sai Kung district councillor Fong Kwok-shan criticized the authorities for inadequate consultations before deciding to reclaim the land. She believed preserving the temple and building the heritage hiking trail were not mutually exclusive. She believed that the temple could be preserved under the condition that it released some land for the construction of the information centre.


Eric Cheung

Eric is currently a Bachelor of Journalism student at the University of Hong Kong. Eric has his finger on the pulse of Hong Kong events and politics. His work has been published on The Guardian, Reuters and ABC News (America).