Henderson Land Development has agreed to postpone the eviction of families in Fanling to clear the way for a three-town project in the New Territories, after pressure from villagers in a collective bargaining meeting.
About 100 residents from Ma Shi Po village in Fanling North, one of the three new development areas, joined a meeting with Henderson executive director Augustine Wong Ho-ming last night, complaining about the developer's harassing eviction tactics over the past few years and demanding it stop planned lawsuits to evict 24 families. They want to stay until the government decides on the way forward for the new-town project - it may even ultimately decide to resume the land currently in developers' hands for other purposes.
These villagers have lived there for decades, and have seen the land they occupy gradually sold to the developer.
It was the first public meeting Henderson had had with the villagers since the border project began to draw strong opposition over the past few months.
Group representative Kwan Hon-kwai said in the meeting: "Why must you chase us out when the government says it will resume all the private land for development? The government will have relocation arrangements for us if we can stay."
Henderson's Wong said the government's change of approach was not his company's concern: "We have to protect our own interests."
After two hours of bargaining, Wong promised not to issue any court summons to the tenants before the year's end and proposed to negotiate case by case on removal arrangements.
Ma Shi Po is one of a dozen villages affected in a large-scale development planned for three areas - Fanling North, Kwu Tung North and Ta Kwu Ling-Ping Che. It is meant to provide 54,000 new homes, but will affect 6,000 to 10,000 existing residents.
The Real Estate Developers Association is expected to submit its views on the development to the government today, ahead of the end of a public consultation on the project on Sunday.
Henry Cheng Kar-shun - chairman of New World Development, which owns 1 million sq ft of land in the area - said: "The idea of satellite towns is good. Land resumption involves different interest groups, and it is up to the government to decide the best method of development."
Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi-pong asked why the government chose to raze existing homes instead of using the site of the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling, which lies just south of Kwu Tung. The club is half the size of the planned Fanling North town. Its lease expires in 2020.
The Development Bureau said it had considered geographical and environmental constraints in drawing the towns' boundaries.