Gangs of land grabbers are everywhere in New Territories villages, occupying other people's property by taking advantage of ambiguous boundaries, a rural strongman in Yuen Long says.
Leung Fuk-yuen, chairman of the Shap Pat Heung rural committee, said although he sympathised with property owners in Shek Tong village, where the land situation was seemingly slipping into anarchy, he had done all he could do to help them. "There are people who rent part of the land, then encroach on more land - especially when the boundaries are not clearly marked. And then they will ask you to sell or lease that land to them," he said.
"These land gangs exist everywhere in the New Territories."
Leung said he had no idea who the Shek Tong villagers had run up against, but believed their problem with illegal occupation and waste disposal was just the tip of an iceberg plaguing many residents of the New Territories.
In February, Leung, under pressure to resolve the Shek Tong dispute, organised a meeting between the villagers, police and officials. The police had since boosted patrols, he said, and he asked planning officials to handle the situation with discretion. Leung Che-cheung, Yuen Long district council chairman, said the gang in Shek Tong could be tenants of the estates of Tai Wong Temple, a religious body based in Yuen Long old town.
The temple owns property around Yuen Long, including Shek Tong. These assets are run by three representatives of the Yeung, Tang and Wong clans in the area. "Some people leased property from the temple, then removed empty squatter huts from the sites and took control of land they thought was illegally occupied" when they had no right to do so, said Leung, also the New Territories West lawmaker.
Meanwhile, the issue of illegal dumping has prompted the Environmental Protection Department to set up a system for discarding construction waste on private land, in which prior consent must be sought from the landlord, and the department notified. It will be introduced this year after the ordinance is amended. It was first raised by former undersecretary for the environment Dr Kitty Poon Kit, but was not submitted to the legislature before her term ended last year.