Taking land from elderly squatters is unreasonable, protesters say

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 April, 2010, 12:00am

Elders living in a Yuen Long village that a developer is planning to clear for a large-scale villa development say it is unreasonable for the developer to take over government land on which they live.

Dozens of villagers protested in a courtyard in Yau Tam Mei village yesterday, shouting 'No removal! No clearance!', a slogan used in the Tsoi Yuen village protest against the express rail link to Guangzhou.

Tsang Cho-kiu, an 83-year-old, said she had to see a doctor and take medication for her heart.

She said a district councillor, whom she declined to name, told fellow villagers this month that the government would come and possess the public land which they live on once the Town Planning Board approved the villa plan in June.

'I'm so worried. I can't sleep. I only wish to stay and spend the rest of my life with my family,' she said.

Tsang and her husband settled in the non-indigenous village 50 years ago after her home in a Shek Kip Mei squatters' area burned down. A mother of seven, she used to raise pigs and chickens, and her husband was a construction contractor.

Tsang's house and those of about 100 other families is in the southern part of a 20-hectare 'comprehensive development area', which, if approved, will contain 277 luxury houses, a clubhouse, commercial facilities and open space, according to the proposal submitted by a subsidiary of Henderson Land Development and several other firms.

The companies say the site would have a station in the proposed MTR Northern Link. The station area could be developed as a civic centre with landmark buildings and a shopping street, they suggest.

They are seeking permission to develop the northern half of the site first. The southern half, they say, is to be 'developed by others', without specifying who. Most of the villagers live on government land, which accounts for about one-third of the southern half of the site.

Another villager Fan Hok-leung said it was unreasonable for the developer to make plans for an area on which so much land was owned by the government and was inhabited by elderly villagers. Yau Tam Mei village is not recognised as an indigenous village, and residents living on rented land are called squatters.

The Development Bureau would not comment, but said that according to general practice, if squatters on government land had to make way for private development, the administration would first compensate residents with an allowance or public rental housing.