Villagers threaten mass rallies over new towns

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 July, 2013, 4:07am

Activists and villagers to be affected by new-town projects in the northeastern New Territories have vowed to stage massive protests on the scale of those against the express railway three years ago.

They were speaking ahead of the announcement today of final changes to the proposals, which have gone through three rounds of public consultation since 2008.

"From what we've heard, the government has not changed their principle. They are still opting to destroy thousands of people's homes instead of looking to other development means that we've suggested," urban planning activist Chan Kim-ching said.

"There's no way we'll accept the scheme. We'll be staging protests just as we did in the campaign against the express cross-border railway."

Thousands of people besieged the Legislative Council in 2010 to voice their opposition to the project - which cost more than HK$60 billion and displaced 100 farm households - but it went ahead anyway.

Chan said officials had not considered counterproposals for the North East New Territories Development Areas.

These included using a huge golf course in Fanling and "brown-field" sites haphazardly occupied by warehouses and recycling workshops.

He also urged officials to give the public the total estimated cost of the project.

Revisions floated by officials to selected media organisations call for the original three-town plan to become two, with one site, Ping Che-Ta Kwu Ling, taken out and placed in a separate town study. More flats would be built in the two remaining towns, Fanling North and Kwu Tung.

Ping Che villager Lee Po-hang said the change was not good news for her, because the plan for her area was only postponed while the threat of losing her home remained.

The total number of flats in the two towns would increase by 28 per cent to 60,000, while the planned population will rise 31 per cent to 175,000.

More public flats will be built, with the ratio between public and private housing, originally 49:51, adjusted to 60:40.

Another major change is that the government would give up the plan to acquire all the land in the project area.

Developers would be allowed to develop their own land after paying a premium to the government, and need only surrender sites zoned for public facilities.