Tenant farmers facing eviction from land they have worked on for decades found a novel way of making their point to developer Henderson Land.
They put up signs to the company's chairman Lee Shau-kee saying: 'Uncle Four, we little papayas, cucumbers and pumpkins are not yet born. Please give us a chance.'
Another said: 'Uncle Four, I want to rent a farm!'
The villagers hammered in about 30 colourfully painted boards with the help of supporters summoned online.
The move came after Henderson put up signs at Ma Shi Po, Fanling North, warning locals that the land would be levelled and filled in, rendering it useless for farming. Chan Kim-ching said villagers opposed plans by the developer to erect flats on the farm belt.
The new town project, which will cover Fanling North, Kwu Tung North in Sheung Shui and Ta Kwu Ling, was one of the 10 major infrastructure projects launched by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in October 2008.
Chan said Henderson agents had erected more than 100 signs on vacated sites all over the village two weeks ago.
They told him mud would be dumped over the farmland in the coming few days. 'The land should be left for agriculture when no development plan has yet been approved,' Chan insisted. 'Henderson should lease its farmland to those who haven't quit and who want to practise leisure farming.'
He added that a farm lot at the edge of the village was turned into a car park by illegal dumping two years ago.
Ma Shi Po, a green belt zone, is home to 100 tenant families. Henderson has acquired about 80 per cent of the land, Chan says. As half of the land is privately owned, officials have said it will be developed in a 'public-private partnership'. That means affected residents living on private land would not be compensated.
Chan Ki-kan, who has farmed rented land in the area since the 1980s, said the signs erected by the developer were the 'latest tactic' to chase people out.
'We are scared. If the land around us is covered by mud or waste, how can we live on with the mess?' he said.
A Henderson spokeswoman denied any dumping plan in Ma Shi Po. 'The signs we erected were to protect our own land and to ask those who have farmed on our sites illegally to remove the crops. We have no concrete plans for the area at the moment,' she said.