Cross-border railway to turn villagers into multimillionaires

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 October, 2009, 12:00am

Villagers affected by the cross-border railway project stand to become multimillionaires under a new compensation package unveiled by the government yesterday.

The offer drew a favourable response from residents near Yuen Long, but some members of a village that will make way for a depot say they still want to stay put. They face forcible removal if they stick to their stance. Under the special ex-gratia rehousing package HK$526.80 a square foot will be paid for affected farmland and HK$1,041 per square foot for land on which a house is built.

Wong Wing-yuen, owner of 28,000 square feet in Tai Kong Po Village, will be entitled to HK$14.8 million. 'I am extremely satisfied,' he said. 'How often do you see such hilly land reused?'

District councillor Tang Kwai-yau, who lives in Wang Toi Shan, Shek Kong, said at least two people from his village each owned about 20,000 square feet of farmland that would be affected.

The compensation package awaits approval by the legislature's Finance Committee.

Affected households that do not own land will each receive a cash allowance of HK$600,000, and there will be a removal allowance of HK$3,000 to HK$10,000 for each villager affected.

Those who meet the criteria will also have priority for public housing.

To qualify for the compensation, villagers have to register with the Lands Department by January, and leave by October 15 next year.

The government said it would follow clearance procedures to remove those refusing to vacate, but did not give a date for doing so.

Despite the compensation offer, many villagers of Tsoi Yuen Village, where 150 homes will be demolished to make way for the project, vowed to stay put.

They held placards and shouted slogans against the project yesterday, as officials of the Transport and Housing Bureau gave a briefing in the village about compensation.

Some said their families had lived there for generations and they would stay there until they died.

But the offer appeared to have softened the stance of some villagers. Tang Kwai-tai said she would consider accepting the compensation offer. 'To be honest, it is very attractive,' she said.

Besides the 150 Tsoi Yuen Village homes, the government said that 10 homes in other villages would also be affected.