Villagers storm out of rail meeting with transport chief

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 October, 2009, 12:00am

Villagers clashed in a war of words after Tsoi Yuen Tsuen residents stormed out of a long-awaited meeting with the transport minister yesterday over compensation relating to construction of a new high-speed rail link.

After more than six months of requests from Tsoi Yuen villagers - who are refusing to make way for the rail link connecting Hong Kong with Guanghzhou - Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng showed up to meet them in the village.

But Ko Chun-heung, spokeswoman for the village concern group, refused to talk to Cheng because she said the minister was not sincere about hearing their case.

'You only informed us of this meeting at 9pm last night,' Ko said. 'Most of our villagers simply are not able to attend.'

Ko said she and 90 other villagers had invited Cheng to a meeting in the village on Sunday night, which most residents would be free to attend, but officials had not responded.

A bureau spokeswoman said it had extended an invitation for weeks to the villagers to meet at Wang Toi Shan, a few minutes drive from Tsoi Yuen village, but they had refused.

More than 10 members of the group, all clad in green, chanted slogans and waved banners stating 'No removal or demolition' before storming out of the meeting.

The move sparked anger from their Wang Toi Shan neighbours.

'All you have done is clamour at every discussion we have had,' Wang Toi Shan village head Tang Yung-yiu screamed at the group as they left. 'They never sit down and talk. They never help us in any meaningful discussion. Is that what you call sincerity? I don't think so,' he said to applause from other participants at the meeting.

Cheng said: 'It was disappointing that [the group] would not stay and talk, as they were already here.'

Cheng has had five meetings with various concerned villagers during the past week on rail-link compensation matters, with authorities saying they will consider increasing compensation for land appropriated for the railway from about HK$200 per square foot to about HK$500 per square foot.

Authorised squatter hut occupants not eligible for public housing will also be offered additional ex- gratia payments to enable them to buy a house.

Tsoi Yuen villagers never showed up to any of the meetings because they said the venues were too far away or meeting times were not convenient.

People familiar with the situation said most Wang Toi Shan residents were indigenous villagers who owned land in Tsoi Yuen village, so the rail link's impact on them would be less than that on the Tsoi Yuen villagers, whose homes will be demolished. However, it is understood that more than half of the Tsoi Yuen villagers want to leave after being compensated.

The Executive Council is expected to discuss the issue within the next two weeks.