Rural chief urges 'generous approach' to tackling issues in New Territories

Rural strongman says government should respect history when tackling thorny issues, including illegal structures, in New Territories

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 February, 2013, 5:23am

Days after drawing one of the unluckiest fortune sticks for the city, Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat urged the government to take a "generous approach" to solving long-standing rural issues.

Lau was speaking yesterday at a spring reception of the kuk, the powerful rural body that represents New Territories villagers.

It was the first one to be attended by new central government liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, regarded by many rural residents as a hardliner, was also there as acting chief executive.

Relations have been strained between some kuk factions and the government over its handling of illegal structures in New Territories villages over the past two years.

Calls to end the small-house policy have also been met with fury by indigenous villagers.

The colonial-era policy gives any indigenous male aged over 18 the right, once in his lifetime, to build a three-storey home in his village.

Lau said he appreciated efforts made by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's administration, but he hoped a "generous approach" would be taken to tackling some of the thorny issues affecting rural residents.

"Some problems are implicative of others," he said. "We hope the government can seek truth from the facts, respect the history and consider the reasons behind it, so that the problems can be settled properly."

Lau also put out a wider call to the public to strive for harmony, not confrontation, in an effort to avert the "bad luck" of the unlucky stick he picked on Monday.

He drew a stick bearing No95 in the annual ritual at Sha Tin's Che Kung Temple.

Fortune-tellers said the stick's message was a reminder to Hongkongers to "beware of wicked people", and that "nothing is going well" in the Year of the Snake.

Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, who also attended the reception, said: "Hong Kong people do not need to get annoyed by who the wicked people are.

"The wicked people are those who harm Hong Kong, but we might not be able to tell who that is at the moment."

Fan also said that Leung's sending of a lawyer's letter to the Hong Kong Economic Journal and columnist Joseph Lian Yi-zheng had backfired.

The letter claimed that an opinion piece by Lian in the journal suggesting that Leung had triad links was defamatory.

"The article is actually quite long and quite hard to read. But the lawyer's letter, in effect, has boosted its readership," she said. "You have to ask Leung why he made such a decision."