Residents of remote Lantau village reveal their plight

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 5:05am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 5:05am

Yu Yuk-chun, 85, moved to Tai Long on Lantau Island some 40 years ago to live with her husband, an indigenous resident of the village.

She loves the peaceful environment of this little-known corner of Hong Kong, but no longer finds it practical to live there.

Now a widow, she lives with her daughter in busy Causeway Bay, only occasionally returning to her village home.

"My [left] leg was injured 10 years ago," she said. "When the water tank dries up and there is no water coming from the tap, it would be difficult for me to carry water from the well to the house."

This was just one of the problems she faced. "There is no doctor to see here … Nobody knew about Tai Long Wan Tsuen. When I hurt my leg and sought help, even rural leaders had to look for our village on the map."

Like Yu, her friend Fan Kiu, 82, also became a resident by marriage. She has made Tai Long her home for some 60 years, and now lives there alone after her seven children moved away.

"I go to Cheung Chau for grocery shopping once a week," Fan said. "Treated water? I don't know what treated water is. As long as we have drinkable water it's OK," said Fan, adding that getting stream water from her home tap and boiling it over a fire so that it's safe to drink is just a normal part of her daily life.

For village leaders, fighting for treated water is just part of their development ambitions.

"This village is suitable for development as an eco-tourism zone," said residents' representative Ho Shu-loy. "There is a firefly museum. At the weekend many people come to play war games. If there was treated water, more tourists would be coming here. For a long time we have also been asking the government to build a highway connecting the village with Chi Ma Wan, and we have not got any answer so far."

Indigenous villagers' representative Kenny Cheung Shu-kan said: "We have no road access or reliable source of consumable water - a basic human right … Over the years the government has allocated billions of dollars to the development of Tai O and Mui Wo. But we southern Lantau villagers receive nothing. Is justice being done?"

But Lau Ping-yau, owner of a business running outdoor activities in Tai Long, thinks the attraction of the village is its green environment, which should be protected from overdevelopment.

"If there is a highway built here like in northern Lantau, everything would be different … When the water is polluted, all that we farm will die," he said.