Heung Yee Kuk chief plays peacemaker in village row
Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat tried to act as peacemaker yesterday amid government criticism of an angry protest by villagers on Monday against the crackdown on illegal structures.
Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had insisted that the government would not give in.
'I called Secretary Lam,' Lau said. 'We will communicate and work out a solution that is acceptable to all. We need time. I will calm down and think.'
Asked if he was properly fulfilling his role as an executive councillor, who has a duty to assist the chief executive in policymaking, Lau said: 'I understand my role.'
Alfred Lam Kwok-cheong, a lawyer and an executive committee member of the kuk, said it would convene a general assembly on Tuesday.
'The chairman will appeal to villagers to calm down,' Lam said, adding that there would be a statement to clarify that it was villagers, not the kuk, who organised the rally. 'Their emotions are understandable. But radical actions will not help matters.'
On Monday, leaders of the 27 rural committees under the kuk staged a rally outside the kuk headquarters in Sha Tin and burned an effigy of Lam. The demonstration drew about 1,000 villagers.
Lau later showed up and chaired a meeting that followed, saying delaying tactics could be a good method for the villagers, agreeing with his colleagues that the problem should be left for the next government if it could not be resolved before the current administration ends in June.
The next day, Tsang said the crackdown would go ahead as planned. He said any intimidating actions attempting to thwart enforcement would offend the public.
Leung Fuk-yuen, chairman of Shap Pat Heung rural committee who convened the rally, said it was not fair to call their protest violent. 'There have been many other protests in the past where people burn coffins, throw bananas and sit on the tramway. Ours was an ideological demonstration to vent our discontent. Why accuse us and not others?'
Alfred Lam said the kuk would suggest that villagers exercise their right to appeal to the Buildings Appeal Tribunal if they get a removal order. If they failed with an appeal, villagers should seek a judicial review, in particular for cases of extra floors beyond the government's three-storey requirement for village houses built on old house lots.
Their emotions are understandable. But radical actions will not help matters
Alfred Lam, kuk committee member