Socialite says she sought to return land

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2012, 12:00am


Socialite and barrister Brenda Chau says lands officials refused to entertain her offer to surrender sites in a country park now at the centre of a heated land dispute.

Chau said she was no longer keen to keep the sites in Ma On Shan Country Park, which the government had years ago licensed to her and her late husband, flamboyant fellow lawyer Kai-bong Chau.

'This is a permanent licence and cannot be transferred,' Chau said. 'So, even though I didn't want to keep it, and had wanted to give it back to the government, they refused to take it back.'

A spokesman for the Lands Department last night rejected Chau's claim, saying the agency had received no inquiry from her about taking back the site. The spokesman did not say whether the department had any interest in the land now.

Chau said she could not recall when she had made the request to authorities - one of several details about the sites she had trouble remembering.

Though the sites were among those licensed for private use under an old scheme, she could not remember whether she had received licences before or after the area's designation as a county park in 1979.

She also could not be sure of the name of the person she says she assigned to look after the land, which she last visited eight years ago.

Sai Kung property agency director William Chan Po-man claims Chau authorised him to look after the sites, but has refused to show any supporting documents.

Sitting on Chau's estimated 5,000 square metre site is what looks like an abandoned private estate, complete with greenhouses and a pond with a wooden sampan.

Two single-storey houses are undergoing renovation. Apart from some gardening work, there is no obvious sign of farming.

Chan would not discuss the use of the houses, which boast a view of the waters around Sai Kung, saying only that they would not be rented out.

In 2000, one house was accidentally set on fire while a local broadcaster undertook unauthorised filming for a television drama, Chan said. The broadcaster later agreed to compensate the Chaus, he said.

Chau's land sits adjacent to two sites licensed to Au Yeung Chung-sin and the two landlords have become embroiled in a boundary dispute.

People claiming to manage the sites for Au Yeung say he spends most of his time on the mainland. They turned down a request by the South China Morning Post to interview him.

Au Yeung's representatives said the sites were used to grow tangerines in 1989 and some of the land had served as a temporary cattle shelter. The land lapsed into disuse until September last year, when a Buddhist group briefly sought to stage meditation activities there.

Recently, they decided to turn the land into an organic farm and set about clearing vegetation and reconnecting a water pipe to a nearby stream. They also erected fences to separate the site from Chau's land and an adjacent farm in Wong Chuk Yeung village that had been bought by developers

Guy Shirra, chairman of Friends of Sai Kung, said he was not satisfied with the current management of the licensed sites.

He said the government should consider opening up such sites for public enjoyment.

Fee comparisons

Cost, set in 1976, of occupying government land in the New Territories: HK$20 per 10,000 square metres per annum for cultivation purposes, such as flowers and grass growing, plus 30 HK cents per square meter per annum for temporary structures erected on the land.

Monthly rental for a short-term tenancy on government land in Fanling in 2011: HK$9,000 for 2,000 square metres per month for landscaping and sale of gardening products.

Source: Lands Department