Some have sought to exploit the public’s misunderstanding of the indigenous population to smear the Heung Yee Kuk rural group, chairman Kenneth Lau Ip-keung said during a National Day reception held on Friday morning.

Kenneth Lau speaking at the National Day reception. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

The Heung Yee Kuk is a powerful statutory body made up of representatives of the Rural Committees in the New Territories. Lau said that “the Kuk will not accept anyone being threatened for expressing their opinions about New Territories development.” He added that he hoped for a harmonious relationship between urban and rural parts of the city. Lau, however, did not comment directly on the recent Wang Chau controversy in his speech at the reception.

The comments came days after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying led a press conference to explain a decision to build 17,000 public housing flats in Wang Chau in phases. The construction of 13,000 units on a brownfield site occupied by a rural strongman’s car park was postponed, 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 Kuk responds

After the reception, several of the Kuk’s members provided a response to the controversy.

Tang Tat-sin, vice-chairman of Ping Shan Rural Committee, said that he opposed the original plan to build 17,000 units during “soft lobbying” sessions with the government as there were “too many cars and too many people.” He said the government was taking their time with the remaining 13,000 units.

Leung Fuk-yuen (Left), Tang Tat-sin (Middle), Cheung Hok-ming (Right). Photo: RTHK and Commercial Radio screenshot; Apple Daily

Cheung Hok-ming, vice-chairman of the Kuk told the media that “4,000 units is not enough… I believe the government will discuss further with local communities and stakeholders for Phase Two and Three of the development.” Asked whether the Kuk will oppose development of the remaining phases, he said that he cannot provide an answer to a hypothetical question.

“I will give my unbiased opinion once the government have started consultation,” Cheung added.

Leung Fuk-yuen, chairman of the Shap Pat Heung Rural Committee, said when the government lobbied him, they did not say anything specific about building 17,000 units, but said that pressing on with the 4,000 units would enable development to begin sooner.

Feng shui mountain

On Thursday, Zachary Wong Wai-yin of the Democratic Party, said he understood that informal meetings with rural leaders over the project had continued, and there have been talks in the last fortnight to further reduce the number of public housing buildings from 10 to 9, owing to feng shui issues.

Hillside graves on the mountain at Wang Chau. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

In response, Leung said he was not surprised. He said the mountain at Wang Chau is a feng shui mountain, and the government should respect rural traditions when planning developments. Even if the final number of public housing units was just under 4,000, he said the government would ultimately keep their promise of delivering 17,000 units, RTHK reported.

Stanley Leung

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.