Hundreds call for development minister Paul Chan to step down
Villagers oppose plans for new town by vowing to defend their homes and calling for the head of embattled development chief Paul Chan
Hundreds of angry villagers came out in force yesterday to deliver a message to the embattled development minister - withdraw the plan to redevelop the northeastern New Territories and step down.
Waving tree branches they took from their villages to symbolise the love of their land, the villagers pledged they would defend their homes at all costs.
"Withdraw the redevelopment plan and step down. We are not leaving our home," the crowds chanted during a two-hour march from Causeway Bay to the government headquarters in Admiralty.
They also demanded that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying resign for keeping Paul Chan Mo-po in the post of secretary for development.
The Civil Human Rights Front, which organised the protest, said 3,000 people took part. Police said 2,100 joined the protest at its peak.
Chan has been embroiled in a controversy over his involvement in the development of a new town at Kwu Tung North, where his family owns 18,000 square feet of farmland.
Last Thursday his wife, Frieda Hui Po-ming, released a sales contract that showed she had sold her shares in the company that bought the land to a family member.
On Friday lawmakers passed a non-binding motion urging Chan to step down.
Au Hei-man, 28, who lives in Ma Shi Po village in Fanling, said: "I was very angry when I found out about the controversy in the newspapers. No wonder he has been making such a huge effort to put through this redevelopment proposal. He just wanted to make money out of it."
Kwu Tung North villager Chung Xiaoqing, 20, was shocked to learn of the scandal because the land at the centre of the row is next to her home.
"It was a piece of barren land with some factories there … If my home eventually has to be demolished, I think I will collapse. It is my home and the place I love."
Coco Mak Ho-yin, president of Chinese University's New Asia College Student Union, was particularly unhappy that Chan quoted the college anthem to show his determination to stay in office last week. "Our college motto says that we need to be honest. He has violated this."
A government spokesman said the government understood that the public had high expectations regarding any possible conflicts of interest involving officials. The development minister and others had already made repeated clarifications regarding the land in Kwu Tung North, the spokesman said.
The Development Bureau published a blog written by Chan on the bureau's website yesterday about the government's determination to boost heritage conservation.
However, it made no reference to yesterday's protest or the recent controversy.
Separately, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said after a television talk show that Chan had made declarations according to the government's mechanism.