Wang Chau villagers should “sacrifice themselves for the greater good of development”, Chairman of The Association of the New Territories Open Storage Operators Limited Tang Kwan-shing said on a Commercial Radio programme on Friday morning.

open storage chariman tang kwan shing
Tang Kwan-shing. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Tang said that “relocating people is easier than relocating storage facilities” because people can be moved into buildings, whereas “storage facilities filled with cargo and goods cannot be moved into buildings.”

He added that bulky objects such as shipping containers, steel beams, and construction materials are too heavy to be stored inside buildings. “Large machinery such as that used in building the Stonecutters Bridge weighs in at a few hundred tons, how can you hoist that up?” he asked.

wang chau brownfield site
The open storage facility in Wang Chau. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Asked if he would sacrifice the village in which he lived to save the brownfield it neighboured, he said “no, of course not.” “There are so few people living there [in the Wang Chau villages], Tang said, whereas his village was densely populated by indigenous villagers. “These villages [where I live] have historic value, it does not make sense to tear down the shrines for the government to build public housing,” he said.

Tang was immediately challenged by the programme host for being hypocritical, to which he said “it is not a matter of indigenous or non-indigenous villages… whether to sacrifice yourself for the greater good also depends on the severity of the situation.”

He suggested Nam Sang Wai, a piece of land near Wang Chau, as a possible location to relocate storage facilities. However, “a lot of people are against using that area because it is on the greenbelt, a conservation area, and has a piece of wetland,” he said, “then what land can we move to?”

Banners calling for the conservation of Wang Chau greenbelt. Photo: HKFP/Stanley Leung.

The construction of 13,000 public housing units on a Wang Chau brownfield site occupied by a rural strongman’s car park was postponed by the government, whilst a plan to build 4,000 flats on a greenbelt site occupied by non-indigenous villages was given the go-ahead. As evidence of off-the-record lobbying with rural leaders emerged, a blame game ensued as the government stood accused of bowing to pressure at the expense of villagers. The controversy came to the public’s attention after incoming lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick made it the centrepiece of his election campaign.

Stanley is a Media and Communications graduate from Goldsmiths College in London. He takes particular interest in visual journalism, having produced photographic and video work on a number of social and political issues. He has also interned at the current affairs service of RTHK’s TV division.