DEVELOPMENT

Squatters rally at Legco over new town plan

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 July, 2013, 3:44am

Residents of Hung Shui Kiu protested outside the Legislative Council yesterday, voicing fears their villages might be demolished as part of a planned new town.

The project calls for developing a 826-hectare plain bordering Tin Shui Wai in the northwest New Territories, with zones for commercial, logistics and technology, and residential use.

About 1,400 village homes are expected to be razed to make way for new blocks offering 60,000 flats - half of which will be public housing. The first batch is expected to be ready in 2024.

A 62-hectare site will be used for logistics facilities and a 10-hectare area will become an information technology hub.

Twenty indigenous villages in the area will be preserved, while five out of the nine non-indigenous villages - located in the future town centre - will be cleared. New Territories villagers are considered indigenous only if their settlement existed before 1898.

A preliminary survey found 1,400 squatter huts in the five affected villages, but the exact number of villagers is not yet known.

"We are worried that our villages will be demolished," said Ho Kwan-yeung, a member of a concern group for squatters in Tan Kwai Tsuen and Wo Ping San Tsuen, and one of about 30 people taking part in the rally.

But under the latest government proposal, the two villages, located in the south of the proposed new town, will not be razed, as they are deemed well-established communities.

"The plan has only been released recently. Even though it seems now that it won't affect us, there's no guarantee that the government won't change its mind later," he said.

The blueprint is currently in the second of three rounds of public consultation.

Ho said about 1,000 non-indigenous villagers lived in the two communities. Most residents had roots going back 50 years and some were still farming the land for their own needs.

The Legislative Council panel on development was yesterday scheduled to discuss the project, but ran out of time. It will take up the matter after Legco's summer break.