Let us have a new village, rail-link protesters say

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 February, 2010, 12:00am

New Territories villagers who have refused to move to make way for the new HK$66.9 billion express rail link to Guangzhou now say they will go if their village can be rebuilt elsewhere to maintain their way of life.

The Transport and Housing Bureau - which said earlier that the village, Tsoi Yuen Tsuen, could not be recreated elsewhere and that only a tiny proportion of the 150 households were still farming - said yesterday it would consider the option.

The suggestion comes with the government's compensation package due to expire on Sunday.

Villager Ko Chun-heung said they would compromise if the government offered them the benefits farmers were entitled to. 'We are all descended from farmers anyway,' Ko said.

The bureau said earlier that under existing land policy, a village could not be moved to another site. But the government has a policy to reinstate houses and land of farmers affected by infrastructure development.

Bureau officials said they would discuss with villagers how their proposals could be implemented.

Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat has been looking for a plot that is both spacious and cheap enough for the villagers, but so far has failed to find the right place. 'Let's see how many households still remain after the selection of subsidised housing in April,' Lau said.

The bureau said 140 households had signed up for the compensation package, which offers eligible villagers up to HK$600,000 in compensation, or HK$500,000 plus a right to buy subsidised housing without a means test.

Ko, who disputed the figure, said 90 enlarged families - couples and their dependent children - wanted to continue farming.

She said villagers would build the houses themselves. Planners who are helping them said they also hoped to include school farms, a biological garden and a flea market.

Ko said the government should provide roads, sewerage, water and a power system.

In the event of the government refusing to meet such costs, villagers and other opponents of the express rail link have threatened to defend the village when officials try to claim it later this year.

Village deal

A compensation package offers villagers up to HK$600,000

The government says the number of households signed up so far is: 140