A dispute over an access road to a new village for displaced Tsoi Yuen Tsuen families has finally been resolved after a mystery benefactor stepped in, the Heung Yee Kuk chief revealed yesterday.
Lau Wong-fat, who brokered the deal, announced the news at the kuk's spring reception yesterday, which will pave the way for major construction work to start on the new eco-village at Yuen Kong in a month.
The deal means villagers will not need to pay an access fee on the privately owned road. And it resolves a deadlock that has prevented 47 families from building new homes at the site in Yuen Kong and forced them to remain in their old village in Shek Kong, which must make way for the HK$66.9 billion Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong rail link. It also means demolition can now start on homes in the old village.
A donor - out of his concern for the progress of the railway project and economic integration between Hong Kong and the mainland - bought the access rights, said Lau, who refused to reveal the identity of the benefactor.
To ensure the Tsoi Yuen villagers could start building their new homes, the donor gave the access rights to the kuk, said Lau, who denied he was the benefactor. Lau, who also refused to reveal the amount paid, said they even held talks on the second day of the Lunar New Year.
The families have been locked in a struggle between MTR bulldozers at their old village and hostile indigenous villagers of Yuen Kong on Kam Sheung Road, banning them from using the existing 500-metre road - the only access - to the new site. The families signed a deal in early December to buy a 188,000 sq ft site in Yuen Kong for more than HK$18 million. So far, villagers and their supporters had been able only to clear weeds and put up fences.
The access fee on the road - which is owned by 18 different parties - jumped from HK$200,000 demanded last August to HK$500,000 in November, then to HK$5 million in December.
Lau, as head of body which represents the general interests of New Territories villagers, recently brokered a deal revising the fee to the sale of 12,000 square feet of land near the entrance of the new village and a HK$300,000 payment.
The deadlock led to barrister and lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee to explore the villagers' legal rights. Lawmakers also plan to visit the new site on Saturday. Lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan said legislators wanted to monitor work on connecting water, electricity and drainage.
The Transport and Housing Bureau expressed its gratitude to Lau and the donor, and demanded that the villagers move out of their old homes quickly.
Activist Chu Hoi-dick, who has helped the villagers, urged the government to resume talks. 'We want to discuss with the government a timetable on moving out ... The government has refused to speak to us since mid-December,' Chu said.