Villagers meet deadline to sign up for compensation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 March, 2010, 12:00am

All Tsoi Yuen Tsuen villagers were believed to have completed registering for the government's compensation package yesterday as the offer expired, including 90 households that had been implacably opposed to the village's demolition for the express rail link to Guangzhou.

However, their acceptance of the compensation - up to HK$600,000 in cash and the chance to get subsidised housing without being means-tested - does not necessarily ensure smooth resumption of the village in October.

Ko Chun-heung, who has led a campaign against the HK$66.9 billion railway since late 2008, said they would not leave unless the government helped rebuild the village elsewhere before the deadline to vacate.

The 90 holdout households said on Monday last week they would leave if the government helped them to recreate their village through a farming reinstatement policy.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng said yesterday this was possible, and that several early applicants who wanted to stay together and continue farming elsewhere had already passed an assessment and even found a suitable plot.

Under existing land policy, a non-indigenous village like Tsoi Yuen Tsuen cannot be moved. But the government has a policy to reinstate the houses and land of farmers affected by infrastructure development. Villagers who practise farming can continue agriculture elsewhere and build a two-storey house of about 400 sq ft per floor.

The government received 200 applications by yesterday, more than its original estimation of 150 households, although the number of residents was short of the estimate of 500.

'Our initial estimation was pretty rough,' Cheng said. Some of the last-minute applicants had registered repeatedly, she said.

Heung Yee Kuk member Tsang Hin-keung, who has been helping the villagers find a new site, said easily accessible locations might cost about HK$200 a square foot and could exceed their budget.

'If they want a garden or farmland, a single household may take up to 3,000 square feet of land, and that may use up most of their compensation,' he said.

Ko demanded the government offer villagers interest-free loans if compensation fell short. Cheng said this was possible under the farming reinstatement scheme.

Last chance

Yesterday was the deadline to register for compensation

The number of applications for compensation received by the government: 200