Officials remove Fanling farmer from land by force

Security guards brought in by officials to help carry out eviction from government land earmarked for Fanling new town

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 April, 2014, 4:55am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 April, 2014, 4:55am

Farmer Lai Wing-kuen was "in a daze" yesterday after he and his wife were dragged off land on which he had worked for 30 years and which he had vowed to fight to the end to defend.

Lands Department officials, police officers and hired security guards swooped on the farm in Ma Shi Po village, Fanling, yesterday morning after a phone call to Lai only minutes earlier.

Caught by surprise, the farmer and his wife, Cheung Yuk-ming, were removed by force from the fields. Lai's arms were scratched in the process.

Lai had been campaigning to keep the government-owned land - part of a controversial plan to develop new towns in the Northeastern New Territories - until work actually started on the new town planned for the area.

"I'm not sure what to do next. I'm in a daze right now - my livelihood is gone," he said last night, after the government cut off electricity and water to the 4,000-hectare plot, dismantled water pipes and erected a fence around the land.

"We were given no warning - only a phone call this morning on whether we received a letter that was sent out [on Thursday]."

A Lands Department spokeswoman said there was no need to inform the occupant before yesterday's action - the second attempt to clear the land.

"Occupying government land without previous approval is against the law. The department has the power to take back the land without the need to inform [the occupant] beforehand, after giving out a notice."

The operation was carried out by about 20 officials and guards who arrived before 10am. A number of police officers stood by. Lai said most items had been cleared by 4pm.

The couple, who grew fig-leaf gourds, were told to leave last year after they lost a public tender to a "mysterious company" set up three days before the tendering process in October.

Lai said last month he would "fight until the end" and did not rule out bloodshed. Lai's wife was born and raised in Ma Shi Po. The couple and their three children live in the village and made a living selling their produce.

"Back then, we didn't know it was government land," he said, referring to when he started the farm 30 years ago. He had hoped the government would rent the land to him, he said.

Lai said he and a few villagers had demanded to meet the director of lands last week and had been promised that their wishes would be passed on to the director. He said he was given the impression that no action would be taken until there was a reply.

But the spokeswoman denied that the department promised to refrain from any action.