Legco set for battle over inclusion of scenic Sai Kung village in park plan

Non-binding motion to exclude scenic Tai Long Sai Wan from country park is passed

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 5:07am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 12:45pm

Green groups yesterday voiced fears that rural strongman Lau Wong-fat would try to amend a bill incorporating a scenic Sai Kung enclave into a surrounding country park after a non-binding motion calling for it to be excluded from the park was passed by lawmakers.

The motion, moved by the Heung Yee Kuk lawmaker and passed by a Legislative Council subcommittee on country parks, calls for Tai Long Sai Wan to remain outside the Sai Kung East Country Park.

Lau said the government was trying to strip away the rights of villagers who say the change would prevent them from building homes on the land.

"It is very regrettable that the government is taking away villagers' rights," Lau said. "It is setting a very bad precedent, which will harm social harmony."

Tai Long Sai Wan is one of three areas covered by the bill that the government wants to incorporate into three different country parks.

Dr Michael Lau Wai-neng, global conservation body WWF's senior programme head of local biodiversity and regional wetland, said he feared Lau would seek to amend the bill.

"If Tai Long Sai Wan, which has attracted so much public concern, is not included in the country park, I am worried what will happen to other land in the future," he said.

The motion passed 7-4. Supporters included Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun and Elizabeth Quat of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. Opponents included the Civic Party's Kenneth Chan Ka-lok and People Power's Albert Chan Wai-yip.

The move to protect areas of private land within or surrounded by country parks arose from a row over unauthorised excavation at Tai Long Sai Wan. Villagers say that if the coastal enclave becomes part of the park, they may be unable to exercise their rights to build homes under the "small house" policy.

But Michael Lau said that even if the land became part of a country park, villagers could still apply to build houses there. The only difference was that the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, instead of the Lands Department, would review the application.

"In the last decade, two applications have been filed to build houses in country parks. Both have been approved," he said.

The Conservancy Association's assistant campaign manager Roy Ng Hei-man said many of the subcommittee members appeared close to rural leaders.