Mob thwarts bid to clear rest of park

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 May, 2012, 12:00am


Land officers and contract workers failed to remove more illegal structures from a rural leader's park and zoo in Yuen Long yesterday as dozens of villagers guarded the entrance and hurled insults at them.

It was the second time villagers had put up opposition to the Lands Department's move to deal with illicit structures in the Tai Tong Lychee Valley - part of which is illegally on government land. On April 30, dozens of villagers formed a line at the entrance but dispersed without any confrontation, allowing lands officers to enter.

It is understood that officers have since entered several more times without facing any resistance.

'You give them an inch and they want a foot. They're too much of a bully,' said Leung Fuk-yuen, one of two park owners and chairman of the Shap Pat Heung Rural Committee.

Leung's 12,000-square-metre park, which encroaches into Tai Lam Country Park, has occupied 5,000 square metres of government land illegally for 18 years. The department acted after the Audit Commission criticised it last month over inaction.

Since then, Leung and the department have removed a suspension bridge, a toilet, a pavilion, some animal shelters and stone chairs within the country park.

The department then posted a notice ordering the removal of structures on government land outside the country park before last Saturday, including a doorway arch at the entrance, another toilet, a refrigerated container and some porches.

Yesterday, about 50 park employees and villagers, mainly elderly people, housewives and youths, showed up at 9am. They chased away a contractor's truck that drove up an hour later.

Leung and a few other rural elders and district councillors arrived later and negotiated with lands officers who turned up around noon with contract workers and dozens of policemen.

Several villagers hurled insults and threatened 'bloodshed'.

One of the contract workers claimed that just as they were leaving, villagers hurled faeces at them, prompting them to make a police report.

In the afternoon, lands officers entered to survey the land and identify the areas that belonged to the government.

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said last night the department would not hesitate to involve the police if staff or contractors were injured or threatened.

Leung, who is a key member of the powerful rural group Heung Yee Kuk and a Yuen Long district councillor, urged the department to reconsider his application for short-term tenancy on government land.

The Lands Department said on Saturday that Leung's repeated applications had been rejected because the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department objected to them. It said it was seeking legal advice on prosecution.

Leung said: 'We plan to issue an injunction and are prepared to fight if the government prosecutes us.'

The Yuen Long District Council passed a motion last week urging the government to process the park's applications and suspend enforcement actions in the meantime.

Lawmaker Lee Wing-tat said the government should not be deterred from enforcing the removal of illegal structures. 'The Home Affairs Department should discuss the issue with the people, and enforce the law if it's still unresolved,' he said.