The Legislative Council Finance Committee has approved HK$122 million in funds to develop a site in Wang Chau in the New Territories, despite a long-running controversy and protests from pro-democracy lawmakers.

Under the development plan passed on Saturday, some 200 inhabitants from three villages are set to be evicted. In the place, 4,000 units of public housing will be built.

A nearby car park owned by a rural strongman will be left untouched despite an original proposal to build 13,000 units on the site. Focus was instead shifted to the greenbelt village sites after rural leaders held informal, unrecorded meetings with the government in 2013.

Map outlining the brownfield car park site and the greenbelt villages in Wang Chau. Photo: HKFP.

In February, the government bundled the Wang Chau proposal together with a block of 9,000 other uncontroversial funding requests to the Legislative Council. The block of requests totalled HK$124 billion.

A proposal from pro-democracy lawmakers Eddie Chu and Edward Yiu to remove the controversial projects from the bundle was denied by the pro-Beijing Finance Committee chairman Chan Kin-por on Friday.

Vote boycott

After also rejecting some 46 motions by pro-democracy lawmakers and requests to adjourn the meeting, Chan put the block of 9,000 funding requests to the vote on Saturday afternoon.

The vote only needed to be approved by over half the legislators present. Pro-democracy lawmakers – a minority in the Legislative Council – boycotted the vote and attempted to approach Chan in protest.

Wang Chau
Pro-democracy lawmakers boycotted the vote. Photo: LegCo screenshot.

At around 1:40pm, the requests were approved with 29 votes for the motion and one vote against.

‘Our homes will soon be demolished’

Wang Chau villagers, some of who had camped outside the Legislative Council for two nights, cried after hearing the result of the vote.

“Why do senior officials and pro-establishment legislators have to bully [us] using collusion between officials, businessmen, rural leaders and triads?” asked one villager.

YouTube video

“Our homes will soon be demolished, and I feel very sad,” she added. “I don’t know what we can still do in the coming days.”

Later, pro-Beijing lawmaker Alice Mak called the police, claiming that some of the protesting villagers had stopped her from leaving the Legislative Council after the vote.

Wang Chau
Protesting villagers on Thursday evening. Photo: Dan Garrett.

The 200 villagers are set to be evicted from their homes by next year, when the construction of the 4,000 public housing units will begin.

The government has not yet released a timetable for developing the adjacent brownfield car park owned by Tsang Shu-wo.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.