Lawmakers have called for the government to revoke its approval of a plan to build a 'fung shui bridge' in a Tai Lam Country Park village.
The call came after revelations of a land grab by the chief of Kap Lung village, Tsang Hin-keung, and a company of which he is the director.
Tsang wants to widen a footbridge so that it can take vehicles.
He claims this is compensation for the disruption to fung shui caused by tunnelling work for the Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou express rail link being carried out a kilometre away.
A special government working group in November approved Tsang's application to widen the bridge in principle.
But land searches have found Tsang - who is also chairman of the Pat Heung Rural Committee - has bought more than one-third of the land in the village.
The searches show Tsang owns 14 of the total of 40 land lots in the village. One of them is jointly owned by Tsang and another man. Thirteen of the lots have been bought by Tsang's company, Wealth Hill International Investment, since 2007.
Lawmakers and villagers say he wants the bridge because he intends to transport materials to develop property or a columbarium in the village - home to just five people.
Those villagers fear they could be forced from their homes, where they have lived since the 1970s, by Tsang's 'powerful connections'.
Tsang - who does not live in the village - denies he is pursuing the bridge project for personal gain. He also disputed the ownership details set out in land and company registry documents.
And he says his company has never bought land in the village. 'Our company has no intention of acquiring land,' he said.
'It is fake. They [the villagers] are making it up to get media attention, because they want to stop the bridge project,' he said.
Tsang rejected claims that he is exploiting his position for personal gain - and that he is using fung shui to pursue property development.
'The government must respect Hong Kong's traditions as listed in the Basic Law,' he said. 'How can they prove fung shui is non-existent? Why do they say I'm using fung shui as an excuse? It is not a property development. We have our village homes there ... we just want to rebuild our ancestors' homes.'
Villagers claim that most of the houses in Kap Lung village were sold to Tsang's company.
Democratic Party lawmaker Wong Sing-chi and lawmaker Tanya Chan of the Civic Party want a response to the villagers' claims about the purchase of the houses.
Both are demanding the government withdraw its approval for the bridge project.
Wong said Tsang has abused his position as village chief for personal gain.
'If none of the village residents want the bridge, it means it is not being built in the public interest. The Lands Department should not build the bridge for him,' Wong said.
Chan, who is a lawmaker and barrister, accused Tsang of using 'public money' to facilitate his own property development.
'Fung shui is only an excuse to demand the government open up the land for him for future development at the expense of residents,' Chan said.
But Tsang said the bridge was for public use, not just for him.
'I have said it already - the land belongs to my clan,' he said.
Land searches show only six land lots in Kap Lung belong to the clan of which Tsang is a manager.
Asked if he would build houses in the village after the vehicle bridge is completed, Tsang said: 'Building houses is a villager's right. What's the problem with rebuilding our ancestors' houses? ... We are just improving our living environment.'
Social worker Eddie Tse Sai-kit, convenor of the Columbarium Concern Group, said the incident reflects a bigger problem - rural chiefs using their positions to get the latest government information and demand public works.
A Lands Department spokeswoman refused to comment on whether approval for the bridge project would be withdrawn.
Wong and Tse called on Tsang to declare his interests in the village to the government and the public.
Pressure groups and villagers want a Legislative Council investigation of the matter and urged indigenous villagers' group the Heung Yee Kuk to reconsider Tsang's position as a rural committee chairman.
Tsang requested the bridge widening when the government consulted him about work on the rail line in Pat Heung, a lands official told villagers.
Tsang, 53, has never lived in Kap Lung but registered as the village chief in 1991. He attained the post unopposed.
In 2008, at Tsang's request, Yuen Long District Office built a vehicle road in the country park to link to the footbridge at the village's entrance, despite repeated objections by environmentalists and villagers.
Activist Chu Hoi-dick, who has dealt with Tsang in fighting for the rights of non-indigenous villagers affected by the rail link, believes the rural chief has spent years planning to develop Kap Lung, zoned for village-type development.
'In 2006, he pressured the Yuen Long District Office to help him repave an existing track to allow vehicles through. Then he took this opportunity to build the bridge. The rail link is just an excuse,' Chu said.
Chu criticised the government for refusing to compensate residents of 14 blocks in Tai Kok Tsui - where tunnelling for the line could threaten building safety - yet helping Tsang develop property under the guise of fung shui.
But the lands spokeswoman said the department had followed procedure for assessing applications for public works.
'We only check whether the proposed works are in breach of land lease conditions.
'The land lease [in Kap Lung] allows the construction of a bridge,' she said, adding that the department does not take into account the personal interests of applicants.
On the back foot
Village chief Tsang Hin-keung wants to widen a footbridge for vehicles
Of 40 lots in the village, land searches show this many are owned by Tsang: 14