Villagers warn of social unrest over zoning plans for country park enclaves

Green groups and expatriates accused of being indifferent to indigenous people

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 April, 2014, 5:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2014, 3:57am

Indigenous villagers from across the New Territories have slammed town planners and green groups for imposing unfair constraints on village development, with some warning of social unrest if villagers concerns are not placated.

Dozens of rural representatives met with the Town Planning Board today to voice their comments on draft zoning plans for three country park enclaves – So Lo Pun in Sha Tau Kok and Pak Lap and Hoi Ha in Sai Kung.

It is the first of four scheduled meetings to be held by the board over a month to consider the draft outlining zoning plans.

Indigenous villagers largely oppose the draft plans because village development zones, or V zones, are insufficient to meet future demand for small houses.

Fan Foo-choi of Kap Tong Village, which is near So Lo Pun, said the government was expanding green belt and country parks at the expense of the city’s housing needs.

“The next generation will have no more land or a place to call their own. I can assure you anti-government riots like the ones in the 1950s and 1960s will occur again,” he said.

Heung Yee Kuk and Sai Kung North Rural Committee member Li Yiu-ban said the V zones “appeared excessive” only because original development permission area plans showed the enclaves – once full of village and agricultural life – as remote and abandoned.

“There were hundreds of houses in So Lo Pun before country parks were drawn. The villagers slowly moved out because they could not keep up with the pace of industrialisation,” said Li.

“Just because no one lives there now doesn’t mean villagers don’t want to go back in the future or keep [land] for the next generation.”

The board forecasts small-house demand in So Lo Pun, Pak Lap and Hoi Ha to grow to 270, 79 and 84, respectively, in the next decade. It expects Pak Lap and So Lo Pun’s population to grow from just zero to 50 and 1,000, and Hoi Ha’s from 100 to 600.

Li criticised green groups and expatriates living in the areas for being selfish and indifferent to the concerns of indigenous peoples.

“It’s like a train. They squeeze themselves on without any consideration for the people already on it. Then they complain about it being crammed and they want everyone else to get off.”

Green groups, who will meet the board later, oppose any further village development and are calling on the government to fold the enclaves into country parks. They say this is the only way to protect them from environmental destruction.

Save Our Country Parks Alliance co-convenor Paul Zimmerman said V-zones should not be enlarged from their current size. “Country parks are natural assets of Hong Kong. We must stop further small house development.”

Most of the roughly 10,000 representations filed to the board for each enclave oppose the plans on the basis of excessive V zones. The rest oppose the plans for delineating insufficient V zones. Only four support the draft for Hoi Ha and just one supports the Pak Lap draft.