Angry Wang Chau residents block village entrances over sudden land development launch
Wooden barricades erected to prevent officials from gaining access again
Residents affected by a controversial public housing development plan in Hong Kong’s New Territories have blocked the entrance to the affected villages after the government’s sudden announcement launching a compulsory acquisition of the land where they built their homes.
The villagers also accused officials of bypassing normal procedure and distributing notices of the land resumption three days before it was officially announced in the government’s weekly gazette.
They are angry that the notices did not give details of the relocation or compensation arrangement.
“It was so sudden that we were all shocked [by the move],” said Chan Oi-kam, chief of Wing Ning Tsuen, one of the three villages affected by the plan.
Chan said villagers had vowed to stay until the government agreed to visit and discuss compensation.
Officers from the Lands Department entered the villages on Tuesday to affix notices, announcing that villagers were given three months to move out of their homes for the resumption of 79 private lots covering a total area of about 3.5 hectares.
The move would displace 180 households in the three villages – Wing Ning, Fung Chi Tsuen and Yeung Uk San Tsuen.
The government stated on the notice that it would offer special compensation to the affected land owners and that eligible affected households would be offered accommodation in public housing or cash grants.
The plan to build 4,000 public housing flats on the green-belt site has drawn heavy criticism from the public after it was revealed last year that the government had shelved another plan to build public housing on a nearby brownfield site after informal discussions with rural strongmen with vested interests in the site.
Villagers on Wednesday set up wooden barricades along the entrances to their villages to prevent officers from entering again.
A government spokesman said on Thursday the Lands Resumption Ordinance, which stipulates that a resumption notice be published in the gazette, did not specify whether the notice should be affixed in the affected areas before or after the gazetting.
“According to due procedure, the Lands Department has affixed the resumption notices [on Tuesday] and will publish the notice in the gazette within this week,” the spokesman said.
But surveying and planning sector lawmaker Edward Yiu Chung-yim argued there would be no way to verify the notices, printed on A4 paper with a blue chop, unless the decision was already gazetted.
“The gazette means the chief executive and the executive council have authorised the notice,” Yiu said. “All actions should come after authorisation.”
Yiu added that the sudden move, without explanation of the relocation or compensation details, would cause panic among villagers with no knowledge of land resumption procedures.
The ordinance requires the government to make compensation offers to those who have an estate or interest in the affected land within 28 days of the notice posting.