Villagers renew urn protest at site

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 March, 2010, 12:00am

Five villagers in Tsuen Wan yesterday blocked access to a construction site, saying the government had done nothing to stop work there on what they suspect is a columbarium.

It was the second protest by the villagers in less than a month. They also blocked access to the site in late February. They claim the government has failed to stop work at the site despite Lands Department officials saying the structures going up there are illegal.

Residents are concerned that the rebuilding work being carried out behind hoardings at the site in Lo Wai Village, Tsuen Wan, will result in a columbarium being built.

The village is more than 300 years old and surrounded by 15 temples including the Western Monastery, Yuen Yuen Institute and Chuk Lam Sim Yuen. The latter two have niches for storing funerary urns.

Residents said the site was cleared before Lunar New Year and rebuilding began shortly afterwards. They said two buildings - a single-storey structure and a three-storey structure - had already been built on an elevated platform made from demolition waste.

'It seems there are no windows on the walls of the buildings. What kind of human beings are willing to live inside?' said Chan Hin-yu, a villager who lives next door to the construction site.

The site is owned by Longest Profit (Hong Kong), according to the land registry. The company bought the property from a family surnamed Chung in December 2009 for HK$15 million.

Longest Profit has four directors - Alan Lin Kwang-jung and three Thai passport holders. The company could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Chan said villagers living near the site were worried about the impact a columbarium would have. They say it could create environmental and traffic problems.

'The government is absolutely powerless to rectify the problem. They have said the work is illegal, but it hasn't stopped. That's why you can see private columbariums being erected all over the city,' he said.

One of the villagers in yesterday's protest blocked access to the site with his truck, which was later removed.

A spokeswoman for the Lands Department said it had not authorised the construction work and the case had been referred to the Buildings Department. But she said there was no evidence to suggest at this stage that the buildings would be turned into a columbarium.

'We have also written to the property owners asking them to stop the unauthorised work,' she said.

The Buildings Department said its officers had been denied entry to inspect the site. A spokeswoman said the department was liaising with the property owners to carry out a safety inspection.