The last two protesters staying on a parcel of farmland in Ma Shi Po, Fanling left the premises on Monday afternoon. The land is set to be repossessed by Henderson Land Development Company Limited.

Protesters and villagers have been attempting to prevent the repossession of the land for nearly two months. Henderson said in a press release that they were “relieved that the matter has been resolved peacefully.”

The wooden guard post. Photo: Facebook via lovenent.

Last Friday, the High Court approved an application from the company to send a bailiff to the land to enforce an injunction that was granted on May 23. The land had not been successfully retaken by the developer, despite several attempts involving guards dismantling the guard post built by protesters and the installation of metal boards.

The two protesters had been inside the guard post for twelve days. Four protesters “decided to directly violate the court injunction” and climbed into the fortress on June 2, but two had already left before Monday.

‘Resistance movement’

Protesters held a press conference outside the fenced-off land yesterday criticising the in-situ land exchange programme and the use of farmland for development. M, one of the two final protesters, told local media that staying for 12 days had been very tiring and he had chosen to leave to think about the next step of resistance.

In-situ land exchange allows private owners of land to exchange an original lease of a piece of land for a new lease. In the Northeast New Territories, Henderson, which fulfills the requirement of owning at least 40,000 square feet of land, can change the land’s designated usage from agricultural to residential.

Yip Wing-lam, a member of the Land Justice League and a student who lives in a nearby village, said that “this is not just a private land dispute but a resistance movement that matters to the entire Northeast New Territories.”

“Take the 40,000 square feet in-situ land exchange as an example. This is definitely something that will begin to spread in the Northeast New Territories,” she added. “This piece of land may just be around 7,000 square feet, and only make up very small proportion… but the significance of this piece of land to us is that if we continue to allow the government to collude with development companies, to allow development companies’ evictions from 20 years ago, this will affect other development plans in Hong Kong.”

Protester climbs out of premises at Ma Shi Po.

“[T]his [incident] shows that development companies’ hoarding land over the last 20 or so years is the correct decision for them. If they don’t hoard they are stupid. If they hoard, there will even be prize money, which is the development plans afterwards – it can allow them to get extreme profits by building tall buildings and getting compensation,” she said.

“This is the first guard post in the Northeast Territories, and possibly the first in Hong Kong’s land and farm activism movements’ history. But we can be very sure that it won’t be the last… ” she said. She also said that “Hong Kong cannot lose anything more. We don’t have any more space we can let go of. The last piece is the New Territories.”

After the protesters left, Henderson Land took apart the guard post.

Chantal Yuen

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.