Heung Yee Kuk ready to fight against inclusion of enclave in country park

Rural body's leaders make ritual offerings as they gear up to resist government proposal to incorporate an enclave into a country park

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 November, 2013, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 December, 2013, 4:39am

The rural power brokers of the Heung Yee Kuk made offerings of roast suckling pig and rice liquor yesterday to honour those who fought British colonial forces in the 19th century, while steeling for a present-day battle of their own.

Led by kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat, about 200 supporters from 27 rural areas offered incense at Kam Tin, Yuen Long. Kuk members then feasted on vegetarian pun choi, a dish associated with villagers in the New Territories, while discussing their plan to rally outside the Legislative Council building on Wednesday to oppose the plan to incorporate an enclave into the Sai Kung East Country Park. Tai Long Sai Wan villagers blocked the entrance to the village during last month's Oxfam Trailwalker charity hike to show their anger at the plan to incorporate the enclave.

They fear the incorporation will deny them the right to use their property as they wish, and Lau will move a Legco amendment on Wednesday seeking to remove the site from a government bill incorporating three enclaves into country parks.

Although he said he was confident he would receive majority support for his amendment, Lau said the kuk would seek a judicial review if he did not.

Lau said yesterday's ritual was to remind Hongkongers that indigenous villagers in the New Territories fought the British to protect their rights, a fight that led to the creation of the kuk as a statutory advisory body.

He said the post-handover government had broken the colonial government's pledge that the creation of country parks would not harm property rights.

"We want to commemorate our martyrs and let people know why we have our rights," Lau said. "The SAR government has been against us on almost everything. We need to protect our villages as the martyrs protected our traditional rights."

One problem for Lau is that, under Legco's complex split-voting system, his amendment must secure a majority of votes from both functional- and geographical-constituency lawmakers.

In a twist, most pan-democrats, who control 18 of the 35 geographical seats, are siding with the government, while the pro-establishment camp largely backs Lau.

Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said he would vote against Lau's amendment as he feared villagers would sell their land for development.

Lau's supporters say they will not back down.

"If Lau's motion fails, we will besiege the Legco," Li Shu-fong, chief of Tai Tong village in Yuen Long, said during the pun choi feast. "We'll keep fighting. There'll be more to come."

Environment minister Wong Kam-sing said incorporating enclaves into country parks would not affect villagers' rights to build houses or use agricultural land.

Kuk member Li Yiu-ban said yesterday that at least 1,000 supporters would participate in the gathering at Legco, which the kuk is characterising as a "petition".