Lau Wong-fat may get votes to squash Sai Kung country park plan
Kuk leader's bid to have Sai Kung enclave excluded from country park is likely to pass unless pan-democrats put up united front
Ernest Kao and Jeffie Lam
Rural strongman Lau Wong-fat's motion to revoke a government plan to incorporate a scenic Sai Kung enclave into a surrounding country park could be passed next month unless all pan-democrats show up and vote against it.
At a meeting of the Legislative Council subcommittee on country parks yesterday, the Heung Yee Kuk lawmaker received support from pro-establishment parties for his motion to reject a government plan to incorporate Tai Long Sai Wan into the Sai Kung East Country Park.
In an ironic twist, pan-democrats are in support of the government's plan, while the bulk of the pro-establishment parties, including the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, have voiced their support for Lau.
Under the split-voting system, the motion is likely to pass in the functional constituencies, where government allies predominate, meaning a united front would be needed by the pan-democrats in the geographical constituencies - where they hold 18 of the 35 seats - to defeat it. The motion is scheduled to be tabled on December 4.
A non-binding motion calling for the coastal enclave to be excluded from the park was passed by the subcommittee 7- 4 last week but lapsed due to procedural errors.
Lau insists the incorporation of Sai Wan into country park land would take away indigenous villagers' rights, which includes a right to build small houses on ancestral land.
"Protection of private property rights is one of the basic cornerstones of a capitalist society," he said.
The government approved draft plans earlier this year that would incorporate the 17 hectares of land - including privately owned sites in Sai Wan village - into the surrounding country park to conserve the site.
Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok of the Civic Party said incorporating the enclave into the country park was the only way to protect the ecologically sensitive area.
The Labour Party's Cyd Ho Sau-lan, who chairs the subcommittee, said she would oppose Lau's motion.
Elizabeth Quat of the DAB said many villages had been neglected by the government.
"Some don't even have access to water services," she said. "How is this striking a balance between conservation and villagers' rights?"
But the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions - which holds three votes in the geographical constituencies and three in the functional constituencies - remains undecided.
FTU lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin said the federation had originally promised to back the government's plan, but this was well before Lau voiced his objection.
"We may need to review it all again," Wong said.