Kuk chief backs our plan, says minister
The development minister says a planned crackdown on illegal additions to village houses has the Heung Yee Kuk chairman's backing, despite radicals from the rural affairs body threatening to protest next week.
'Some people say I'm being too tough and Lau Wong-fat [chairman of the kuk] is being rather weak on this issue. I don't think so,' Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said yesterday.
'Uncle Fat has been in politics for over half a century and I've worked as a civil servant for more than 30 years. We are both experienced and feel that we should act within the law. That's why he supports us,' Lam said.
Kuk radicals have vowed to muster 1,500 villagers to surround the Legislative Council on Tuesday in protest at the government's plan. Ironically, the development panel that is due to meet on the issue that day is chaired by Lau.
Lau has said that the kuk agreed to most of the government's proposals, except on the issue of old house lots whose leases do not contain building height restrictions. The militants have more reservations and accused the chairman of being weak.
Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, said there had often been a certain element of role-playing in splits between kuk members in the past, which could be a tactic to gain more bargaining power from the government. 'Some play the radicals and Lau has always played the broker, able to unite the factions and, in return, ask the government for compromise,' he said.
Rural leaders may want to buy time so that their illegal structures could be tolerated for a while, he said. 'Who knows whether there'll be a policy change after the next reshuffle of government officials?'
Lau could not be reached for comment. Kuk vice-chairman Cheung Hok-ming said he would urge villagers to abide by the kuk's stance in support of most of the proposals.
The government's plan to crack down on illegal structures in New Territories village houses (Major items listed here. The list not exhaustive)
Items subject to immediate enforcement
- Village houses of four storeys or above
- New structures
- Structures covering more than half of roof area
- Items posing imminent danger
Items subject to a later stage of enforcement
- Enclosed balconies
- Structures covering less than half of roof area
- Ground-floor extensions
- Ground-floor canopy with pillars
Green and amenity facilities
- Metal supporting racks for air-conditioners
- Small antennas, TV dish antennas, solar energy equipment
- Open rooftop gardening trellis smaller than 5 square metres
- Metal drying racks
Source: Development Bureau paper submitted to Legislative Council