Wang Chau housing saga

Crackdown on Hong Kong triads intensifies after death threats against lawmaker Eddie Chu

Chief executive dismisses any suggestion of ‘compromise’ with organised crime on rural projects and says 17,000 flats are still planned for project at centre of issue

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2016, 11:11am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 5:55pm

Hong Kong’s leader has ordered police to intensify a crackdown on triads in the New Territories while rejecting a newly elected lawmaker’s allegations of collusion between the government and gangsters, especially over housing development.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said there was no question of any “compromise” with organised crime, as police mounted a fifth consecutive night of raids on entertainment venues allegedly controlled by triads in Yuen Long.

The crackdown is seen as a warning to those who might be behind the death threats against New Territories West lawmaker-elect Eddie Chu Hoi-dick.

Chu had alleged that a “government-business-landlord-triad collusion” was behind was behind the scaling down of a public housing project in Wang Chau, Yuen Long. He said the government had originally planned for 17,000 flats to be built on the site, but this was reduced to 4,000 in the face of opposition from powerful rural leaders including Tsang Shu-wo, who owns a brownfield site in the area.

After complaining of increased death threats upon being elected with the biggest share of votes in the geographical constituencies, Chu and his family have been placed under round-the-clock police protection.

Last night the government said Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po and the housing minister, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, would meet Chu tomorrow to discuss the Wang Chau project.

Chu has been asking the government to release a 2014 report that was never made public on the feasibility of developing Wang Chau, including the rural-owned brownfield site. The government said yesterday that it was not policy to publish such “sensitive information”, but in this case it would release selected chapters from the report on the requirements and difficulties of the development.

Earlier, in a media session ahead of his weekly cabinet meeting, Leung said: “The government does not cooperate with triads or dark forces, nor do we compromise with them. The government is firm on this issue, and we will not be soft-hearted.”

Leung said the government still intended to build 17,000 flats in Wang Chau, but it would have to do it in phases.

“There are two types of land in Wang Chau. First, brownfield sites with open-air storage, which are in use and functional, and we need to relocate them,” the chief executive said.“Another type of land is greenbelt that has already been destroyed. It is not a question of whether we are making brownfield or greenbelt the priority; we are just working on 4,000 units first after a comprehensive assessment.”

On Monday, Yuen Long rural leader Leung Fuk-yuen said instead of using the phrase “government-business-landlord-triad collusion”, it should be “cooperation” with consideration of interests of different shareholders. Amid raised eyebrows over whether he had admitted to such a nexus, the village leader clarified yesterday that he was only talking about “cooperation among official, business and rural” parties.

Another village leader, Sheung Shui Rural Committee chairman Hau Chi-keung, said he was not aware of triad forces operating in some parts of the New Territories.

But revelations from police insiders suggest otherwise. It is understood police are investigating whether a triad gang in Yuen Long is behind the threats against Chu. Initial investigations showed that a man accused of tailing Chu was a suspected Wo Shing Wo triad member, a police source said.

“Officers are investigating whether his appearance was a coincidence, or he was following Chu’s tracks before planning an attack.”

About 100 officers have conducted raids and licence checks at numerous entertainment premises in Yuen Long, including pubs and mahjong parlours. They were allegedly controlled by the Wo Shing Wo and 14K triad societies.

Officers arrested 106 people, including 84 women from the mainland and Thailand in brothels and massage parlours. The rest were Hongkongers held for operating the venues.

“The purpose of the raids is to send a strong message to the ­triads that those who dare to obey orders [to hurt or threaten Chu] will have to pay the price,” a source with knowledge of the ­operation said.

At a Wong Tai Sin district council meeting yesterday, Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung said: “We are highly concerned about [Chu’s case]; we will not tolerate any threat of violence against any resident.”

Additional reporting Raymond Yeung