Hong Kong village chiefs not behind death threats against lawmaker, top rural leader says
Government also rejects claims by newly elected Eddie Chu that housing project was scaled back after collusion between administration and villagers
Hong Kong’s top rural leader dismissed the possibility of village strongmen being behind death threats against newly elected legislator Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, who is now guarded round the clock by police.
After a three-hour meeting on Monday between the development minister and Heung Yee Kuk, Kenneth Lau Ip-keung, chairman of the powerful rural body, insisted Hong Kong was a safe city and he saw no reason why Chu should be afraid of continuing his campaign over land rights in the New Territories.
At the same time a government spokesman rejected Chu’s allegations that a public housing project in Wang Chau, Yuen Long, was scaled back because of collusion between the administration and villagers with vested interests. He said it would be developed in phases.
“At this stage, the southern part of the site is to be developed first, with the aim to provide 4,000 public units ... The government will commence work in other parts of the sites according to the progress of the development of supporting works,” he said.
Chu has previously accused pro-establishment Beijing lawmaker Leung Che-cheung and rural leader Tsang Shu-wo of working together to block the government from taking back the Wang Chau site for public housing. Tsang, who chairs the Ping Shan rural committee, was accused of operating a car park on disputed public land.
Chu also accused the government of backing down and revising the plan to offer only 4,000 public units on another site where there are three villages.
A major part of Chu’s election campaign was to expose alleged collusion among government officials, businesses, rural leaders, and triad groups. He is under police protection after complaining of death threats following the September 4 Legislative Council elections.
“I do not believe any rural community leaders would resort to intimidation against anyone expressing views over the development of the countryside,” Lau said. “We do not accept that being done to anyone and we are against intimidation.”
Asked if Chu would be safe if he continued visiting villages to “expose more collusion”, Lau said: “Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world. Everyone here should feel safe.”
On Chu’s calls for reforming the kuk to make it more democratic, Lau said he would be very pleased to meet him and discuss the issue.
“Of course, there is always room for improvement. I would be pleased to hold talks with any interested party to discuss reform of the kuk or rural affairs, as long as these changes don’t affect the traditional rights of indigenous villagers,” Lau said. He was referring to Article 40 of the Basic Law, which protects “the lawful traditional rights and interests of the indigenous inhabitants” of the New Territories.
He also stressed that the kuk was a democratic body.
“The kuk’s core leadership is made up of rural committee leaders who are elected by village heads among themselves, and those village heads are elected by one man, one vote by villagers.”
Lau led a delegation of 15 rural leaders to meet Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po on Monday. They asked the government to allow more time for villagers to deal with illegal structures at their homes. They also wanted a relaxation of rules so as to allow villagers to borrow money to buy land to build small houses.
But Lau said the controversies over Chu and the Wang Chau development were not raised during the meeting.