Government officials failed to turn up to requisition the three constituent villages of Wang Chau on Thursday, after the deadline for residents to vacate their homes passed.
On May 2, the Lands Department sent officials into the Yuen Long site to put up eviction notices, stating that the village land would become government property after exactly three months – this Wednesday. Some villagers heard rumours that an eviction or requisitioning operation would begin on Thursday.
Chan Oi-kam, the chief of Wing Ning – one of the the three villages – told reporters at a Thursday morning press conference he suspected officials did not want to arrive in the presence of journalists and activists from across the city.
“I don’t know why the Lands Department didn’t come today – it probably wants to strike suddenly,” said Chan. “It wants to provoke us villagers, so they can arrest everybody.”
Two villagers were arrested in May as the department put up notices. One was charged with possessing an offensive weapon, reported InMedia.
“I don’t know why the Lands Department has to do things that cannot be seen by the public,” he added.
See also: The defence of Wang Chau: Barricades are up, but villagers still hope for talks
In 2012, the Hong Kong government had planned to develop public housing at a storage yard near the villages owned by a rural strongman. But after closed-door soft lobbying, it modified its plan to instead demolish the three Wang Chau villages.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu directed public attention to the controversy during his successful election campaign last September. However, he was unable to block the legislative motion to fund the development of housing on the site, which was passed in March with the support of the pro-Beijing camp.
A development trend
Speaking at the entrance to the Wang Chau villages on Thursday, activists from the Democratic Party claimed that similarly opaque development projects were taking place across rural Hong Kong.
Legislator Roy Kwong said that he was following up with a case whereby 80 families in Tuen Mun’s Nai Wai village were being forced to leave after a new landlord raised rents 25-fold last month. Kwong had photographed a notice in the village reading: “If you don’t move, you will be responsible, and this could affect your family.”
The party’s Yuen Long district councillor Zachary Wong added that similar incidents could take place in the proposed developments of South Yuen Long and Hung Shui Kiu. He called on government officials to engage in direct dialogue with Wang Chau’s 200 villagers.
“[Chief Executive] Carrie Lam told her bureau chiefs to go out to visit different districts and get in touch with ordinary people more,” he said. “Are they really following this order?”
“At least with the Wang Chau saga, they are probably thinking ‘let’s not bother’, and passing the responsibility to the police.”
Villagers and activists marched in protest to the nearby Yuen Long District Lands Office following the morning’s press conference.