Around 40 residents from Cha Kwo Ling village in Kowloon, which is set to be redeveloped to make way for high-density public housing next year, gathered outside the government headquarters on Tuesday to lodge a petition against the project’s rehousing policy.

Cha Kwo Ling village redevelopment relocation CGO petition
Cha Kwo Ling villagers express their demands on March 28, 2023. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

The redevelopment plan of the squatter area in Yau Tong was first introduced in the 2019 Policy Address delivered by former leader Carrie Lam. According to a document submitted to the Legislative Council, the plan could release about 4,500 public housing units.

About 850 households – involving 1,500 persons – and about 26 business in the area will be affected by the redevelopment project, according to the Legislative Council paper.

Ahead of a panel meeting about the redevelopment plan on Tuesday, about 40 villagers assembled outside the Central Government Offices with banners and a loud speaker, through which they shouted slogans and expressed their discontent with the government’s rehousing policy.

The group urged the government and lawmakers to scrap income limits for villagers applying to be resettled in public housing. They also demanded that they be relocated in the same district as the village, to allow their children to continue attending the same schools.

Cha Kwo Ling village redevelopment relocation CGO petition
Cha Kwo Ling village. Photo: yuen yan via Flickr.

The Lands Department has begun contacting affected households and businesses, offering them two options: a “means-tested” rehousing option of relocating into public rental housing units, or a “non-means-tested” option of relocating into units at a Kai Tak dedicated rehousing estate.

Villagers choosing the “non-means-tested” option will have to temporarily stay in transitional accommodation before the intake of the Kai Tak estate begin in 2026.

Mrs Kin, who has lived in Cha Kwo Ling for 61 years, told a HKFP reporter that her family did not qualify for relocation to public housing under the current policy.

Cha Kwo Ling village redevelopment relocation CGO petition
Mrs Lo (left) and Mrs Kin (right) express their demands on March 28, 2023. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

“We are not eligible for public housing, what can we possibly do?” the 82 year-old said.

“The government is backsliding. They planned to demolish our homes in 2024, yet the construction of a dedicated rehousing estate will only be completed by 2026, so we have to move twice while taking care of the elderly and the children in our family under this plan,” another villager, Mrs Lo, who has 11 family members living together in Cha Kwo Ling, said.

Lo said she had tried calling and mailing various government departments to express her concerns, but had not received any reply from the authorities. Citing a quote by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, she called for a response to their demands by the officials.

The president of the Legislative Council’s panel on development, Tony Tse, took the petition with 421 residents’ signatures from the group. The lawmaker told the group that everyone was worried about their own housing issues, adding that he would listen to the villagers’ concerns.

Cha Kwo Ling village redevelopment relocation CGO petition
Cha Kwo Ling villagers and lawmaker Tony Tse on March 28, 2023. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Tse also cited the same Xi quote in his speech.

“Thank you, Mr Tse. Let’s chant what president Xi told us together: The country belongs to the people. The people belong to the country!” Lo said in response.

The group later sat in the panel meeting that discussed the Cha Kwo Ling redevelopment plan.

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Lea Mok is a multimedia reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously contributed to StandNews, The Initium, MingPao and others. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.