Payouts not penalties for owners, kuk chief says
Rural patriarch Lau Wong-fat yesterday weighed into the row over some villagers' illegal occupation of rural government land, saying that instead of penalising such occupiers the government should pay compensation to owners whose land has been zoned into country parks.
He said such zoning froze the development potential of the land.
'Some land in the country parks is actually owned privately,' said Lau, who is also a legislator and executive councillor. 'The villagers could no longer develop the land as they wished. But affected villagers were never compensated. Is it fair?'
Lau, chairman of the Heung Yee Kuk - a government-recognised body representing the interest of rural villagers - also said it was misleading to claim that many villagers had encroached on country parks.
He spoke out after the Audit Commission criticised the Lands Department for not preventing such encroachments, including one by Yuen Long rural leader Leung Fuk-yuen involving 4,700 square metres of park used for a private recreation facility.
Leung, chairman of Shap Pat Heung rural committee, contends that he did it for the public good and that his family owned part of the land now included in the country park.
The city has 24 designated country parks and 22 special areas for the purpose of nature conservation, covering a total area of more than 44,200 hectares. Most of the parks were designated in the 1970s without strong opposition from villagers.