A group of activists spent Monday building barricades to prevent “forceful removals” at a farming village in Fanling. A developer had previously sent a lawyer’s letter to a household in the village asking the activists to leave.

Around 80 percent of the land at Ma Shi Po village in Fanling has been slowly acquired by Henderson Land Development. The developer has been seeking to construct housing, though much of the land remains inhabited by villagers. The government had proposed a land exchange deal so that eligible development plans could be implemented faster whilst “safeguarding fair treatment to tenants/occupants.”

At the end of March, Henderson was accused of walling off the village with barbed wire, which prompted activists to stay in the village to defend against any “surprise attack”.

Villagers, activists and lawmaker Fernando Cheung.
Villagers, activists and lawmaker Fernando Cheung. Photo: Facebook/lovenent.

After remaining in the village for three weeks, the activists say that a family surnamed Au received a letter from Henderson’s lawyers last Friday stating that the activists “ignored the interests of landowners” and demanded they leave.

The activist groups included Kwu Tung North Development Concern Group, League of Fanling North Villages and Residents, Ta Kwu Ling/Ping Che Alliance for “Saving Our Home”, Mapopo Community Farm, Land Justice League and Protect North East Campaign. The groups invited the public to enter the village on Monday and “defend it due to the emergency”.

Drilling works 

Becky Au, who lives in the village, said at a press conference that the government’s land exchange policy was “using the power of developers to remove villagers before any development plan had been implemented”. She said that drilling works by the government to be carried out by mid-2016 were an act of “forceful removal through cooperation between the authorities and businesses”.

Activists building building wooden barricades; an "ass" structure built by activists claiming to be for Henderson's Lee Shau-kee.
Activists building wooden barricades (left); an “ass” structure built by activists claiming to be for Henderson’s Lee Shau-kee (right). Photo: Facebook/lovenent.

Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, who went to the village on Monday, said Ma Shi Po was not an isolated case and that plans for Lantau Island would also turn it into a commercial project.

“By law, we are lacking justification – but facing such acts of forceful removal, we must stand to stop it,” Cheung said.

Democratic Party district councillor Lau Ki-fung said he had proposed bringing a halt to the preliminary works at the district council, but the move was rejected by the pro-Beijing camp.

Activists have been building wooden barricades to stop police officers and Henderson representatives from entering the village. A giant “ass” structure was also erected and dedicated to Henderson founder Lee Shau-kee.

Police have been standing guard around the village but – as of 9pm Monday – no action had been taken.

Lee Shau-kee.
Lee Shau-kee. File

Social responsibility

In an open letter to Lee written on Sunday, the activists said the Au family had been living in the village for some 70 years and contributed healthy and safe vegetables to the community. The Au family felt “very helpless” hearing their land may be taken away, the letter said.

They added that farmers could put 300 tons of waste food to use per month as fertiliser if the currently abandoned farmland owned by Henderson were put back into use. Such a move would “reduce pressure on landfills greatly”.

They invited Lee to visit the village to talk to villagers and enjoy “simple farmers’ vegetable dishes”.

Henderson has received corporate social responsibility awards and is active in the field of environmental protection, the letter said.

“We believe you will like it here,” it read.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.