Legal team to assist villagers in road row

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 January, 2011, 12:00am

Barrister and lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee has thrown her support behind the villagers of Tsoi Yuen and is putting together a team of legal experts to explore what road access rights they are entitled to at their new village site.

The 47 Tsoi Yuen families are locked in a desperate struggle between MTR bulldozers at their old village and hostile indigenous villagers banning them from using an existing road to the site of their new village.

The families cannot start building their new homes unless they pay the other villagers an 'access fee' of HK$5 million.

This, the Tsoi Yuen villagers said, was the reason for their recent clash with MTR workers and police, as they fear their old homes will be demolished before the new village is built.

'We are exploring all possibilities that will give the villagers road access,' said Mirana May Szeto, a supporter of the Tsoi Yuen villagers and an assistant professor of literature at the University of Hong Kong.

Szeto wouldn't say if those options included legal action. The academic also called on executive councillor and Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat and his son Kenneth Lau Ip-keung to let the villagers meet the person in charge of the road.

'While there are a number of people who claim they are ultimately in charge of the road, they only speak through Lau and his son, Kenneth,' Szeto said. 'The demands [for fees] keep changing and the new villagers don't know which one is the final demand. We want to meet whoever is responsible face to face.'

Ng said the group would explore all solutions. 'The villagers are very keen to move to the new village,' she said. 'But they are being manoeuvred into buying a piece of land with no vehicular access. We are studying the case to see how we can help.'

The villagers' current home, Tsoi Yuen village in Pat Heung, is to be demolished to make way for the HK$66.9 billion Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link.

The 47 families signed a deal in early December to buy a 188,000sq ft site in Yuen Kong village in Shek Kong for more than HK$18 million.

So far, villagers and their supporters have only been able to clear weeds and put up fences at the site. No construction work can start the road access issue is resolved.

The access fee demanded by the villagers blocking the road jumped from HK$200,000 last year to HK$5 million, or 12,000sq ft of land plus HK$500,000, now.

Lau Wong-fat initially offered to negotiate the road fee for the villagers because the landlord, Leung Kam-ting, is a relative. But recently, Kenneth told villagers Leung was not the ultimate person in charge.

'The person in charge doesn't have his name on the Land Registry record,' said Chu Hoi-dick, a supporter.

The senior Lau declined to comment on his role in brokering the deal. A person working for Lau said Kenneth also could not be reached for comment.

The kuk chairman was embroiled in a scandal last September over reports that he failed to declare a series of property transactions. It was later revealed that a company controlled by Kenneth bought eight flats in Yoho Midtown in Yuen Long with Lau's company on the day the government announced measures to cool property prices. His son sold three of the properties before the transactions were completed, making a profit of HK$800,000.

Clashes between Tsoi Yuen villagers, their supporters and security guards have become a constant scene since early this month as demolition work continues. About 50 villagers and supporters were taken away by police and security guards on Monday.

The Hong Kong Construction Industry Employees General Union also complained that more than 10 workers were injured in the clashes.