Wang Chau villagers have vowed to remain in their homes until the government provides a “proper” resettlement after staff from Hong Kong’s Lands Department issued a final eviction notice on Wednesday. The government told the residents in Yuen Long to move out in two weeks’ time in order to make way for a planned public housing estate.
The three soon-to-be-demolished rural villages in Yuen Long are part of the Wang Chau development project introduced by the government in 2015. It aimed at building 4,000 public housing units on the 5.6 hectare greenbelt.
The plan drew public scrutiny in 2016 after it was revealed that the government had scaled down the project and excluded an adjacent brownfield site following informal, unrecorded meetings with rural leaders.
The 34-hectare area – mainly controlled by rural strongmen and designated for open storage and car parks – could yield at least 13,000 public housing flats.
On Wednesday, representatives of the Wang Chau Green Belt Development Concern Group and the Land Justice League held a press conference at the village after villagers received notice that the clearance work will begin on July 29.
Activist Ng Cheuk-hang said the government did not consult the roughly 400 villagers properly and did not look into the “shady business” involved in the development proposal. No government official was held accountable for the scandal either, he said.
The groups questioned why the government did not seek to take land from the indigenous inhabitants. They added that many villagers – who hoped to maintain their rural lifestyle – were still struggling to find a place to relocate.
Another activist, Michael Leung, told the press: “This is a very unjust, undemocratic and unethical eviction. They want to maintain their rural village lifestyle, livelihood and continue living here.”
One villager, who gave his name as Mr Au Yeung, said the eviction was “unreasonable.” He said residents communicated with the government through different channels over the past five years, but they felt the authorities never listened to their demands.
“Since 2015, we have been living in anxiety and fear,” he said. “The government does not respect the property of citizens, seizing lands from the villagers. All we ask is a place to live, in face of eviction, where can we move?”
Yuen Long District Councillor Au Kwok-kuen said the controversies surrounding the public housing plan remained unresolved and pledged members of the council would continue to assist villagers.
Last Saturday, the fifth and last annual jackfruit festival was held in Wang Chau village. In addition to celebrating “king of fruits” harvest, the event also drew attention to the imminent eviction. Villagers put up banners with slogans such as “Vow to defend our homes, no moving, no tearing down” and “Don’t bulldoze Wang Chau’s grievance.”
Additional reporting by Ryan Lai