Villagers from Yuen Long gathered at central government offices on Wednesday in protest to a housing plan which will force them to move. They say the government had failed to develop a much larger area of uninhabited land close by, part of which has been turned into a car park. The issue was one of the major campaign platforms of lawmaker-elect Eddie Chu Hoi-dick.

The 30-odd villagers from three villages in Wang Chau, Yuen Long, criticised comments from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Tuesday. Leung said that it was “easier” to provide 4,000 housing units in their village first, though the government has not dropped the more difficult 13,000-unit project at the car park site closeby. The latter site sits on disputed government-owned land.

Eddie Chu. Photo: HKFP/Stanley Leung.

The villagers and Chu claimed it was a case of “bullying planning” and that government was reluctant to take on rural leader Tsang Shu-wo. Tsang is the chairman of the Ping Shan Rural Committee who operate the car park.

“Why was the car park not developed? It must be because there is a strong power,” Chu said. “Why should three villages be evicted? They are easily bullied in the New Territories.”

“This is not a case of easier projects before more difficult ones – this is a case of fearing the bad people and bullying the good people,” he told reporters.

Chu added that the development of the three villages was never done in consultation with villagers, but only rural leaders. Chu demanded the government publish public feasibility studies conducted between 2012 and 2014, to show the public the reason behind developing the village are first.

Fernando Cheung. Photo: HKFP/Stanley Leung.

Car park plan ‘dropped’

Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, who has been following the case, also questioned the government’s choice in developing the three villages first.

“What do you mean by easier projects first… why is taking back a car park more difficult than destroying people’s houses where they have been living for generations?” he said.

Cheung said the Lands Department had told him in a written response that it had dropped the development of the car park, and that the 13,000 units will never be built.

“Is there really no choice, that [the villages] were the last piece of land that can be developed?” Cheung said. “This is another classic example – in the name of development, in the name of housing – the development only helped people with vested interests, but not the Hong Kong people.”

He said he hoped to use the Powers and Privileges Ordinance of the Legislative Council to investigate the case, but he said he expected the pro-Beijing camp to oppose it.

Miss Ko. Photo: HKFP/Stanley Leung.

A villager, surnamed Ko, said the piece of land she and her mother resided on was a greenbelt site and they grew many vegetables on it.

“They should take back the large piece of land first [the car park], it is not fair,” she said.

She said she had no idea they would be forced to move by 2018 when government officials came to tell her the news. They were never consulted by the government or the Yuen Long district council, she said.

“This is not about taking back our land, this is taking our lives,” she said. “My mother then said: ‘oh no we will have nothing left, we will have to sleep on the streets.’”

Villagers marching. Photo: HKFP/Stanley Leung.

The villagers said it was the seventh time they had visited the government offices to ask for meetings with the development minister and the housing minister. Both bureaus sent executive officers to receive their protest letters.

They also brought lanterns to the protest, saying that they hoped they could still enjoy the mid-autumn festival at their villages.

Chu and architectural sector lawmaker-elect Edward Yiu Chung-yim will meet with Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po and Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung on Thursday.

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Kris Cheng

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.