New Territories villagers drown out country park activists at Legco rally

Group of picnicking conservationists berated ahead of vote to exclude enclave from park plan

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 4:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 December, 2013, 4:30am

Hundreds of villagers from across the New Territories massed at the Legislative Council complex yesterday to protest over the "unfair" incorporation of a Sai Kung enclave into a country park.

Waving national flags, they were expressing support for Heung Yee Kuk lawmaker Lau Wong-fat's bid to have the Tai Long Sai Wan enclave excluded from a plan to fold it into a country park. Hours later they had to head for home after Lau's motion was voted down, but they vowed to fight on in the courts.

Earlier, protesters sang the national anthem and Unity Is Power - a revolutionary song.

They had come from more than 27 villages across Hong Kong, some as far away as Sheung Shui, Fanling, Pat Heung, Yuen Long and Lantau Island. "If Lau's motion fails, there is still a judicial review pending, so we are not too worried," said former Tai Po district councillor and kuk member Li Yiu-ban.

Sai Wan village chief Lai Yan said he would do whatever it took to protect his home. A few Sai Wan villagers berated some conservationists who were staging a picnic outside the building in support of the government plan.

The Save Our Country Parks Alliance and the Democratic Party handed letters to environment chief Wong Kam-sing in the morning expressing support for the park plan. Villagers accused them of being "selfish" and "insensitive".

"All we want is fairness," said villager Lai Kwan, who runs a restaurant in Sai Wan.

"The government talks about conservation, but how will they protect butterflies when they can't even protect the rights of people who live there?"

He said folding private land into the park was akin to snatching away private property rights, and the government was backtracking on a promise officials made in the 1970s to keep private property in villages out of country parks.

Pro-establishment and pan-democrat lawmakers took turns taking the stage to accept "more than 10,000" letters from villagers opposing the plan.

Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, who has been vocal in his support for the government's park plan, also took to the stage, but was jeered at by angry villagers.

"I, too, hope a compromise can be reached between the need for conservation and villagers' rights," said Chan, his voice nearly drowned out by the loud booing.

"But our stance is firm: incorporating the enclave into the park is the only way we can protect it from destruction," he said.