The development chief last night endured a rowdy reception from villagers who would lose their homes under his bureau's plan to turn their border suburb into a new town.
Paul Chan Mo-po, secretary for development, skirted around their demands for an exact date that he would visit the villages he wants to tear down - a promise he made months ago.
It was Chan's first face-to-face meeting with villagers, held at a North District Council venue in Fanling, on the controversial northeastern New Territories dual-town plan.
"You are exaggerating," the minister said in response to a Kwu Tung villager's criticism that the Development Bureau was "killing" the families whose homes fall under the plan.
"You are indeed destroying our homes, it's no different from killing us," said student Chung Xiaoqing, a Kwu Tung villager.
"I beg you, minister, to allow my 90-year-old mother to live out the rest of her days in her village," another woman said.
In another exchange at the meeting, which was closed to the media, Chan replied that: "The [new town] project is for Hongkongers."
That sparked boos all round from the 80 attending villagers. "What about us here? Who among us is not a Hongkonger?" one villager asked. "You are serving newcomers from the mainland," said another.
Chan refused to specify when he would visit the villages he planned to uproot, saying only that his colleagues would make future arrangements.
The development plan is intended to provide more public housing, Chan said. But an angry villager replied: "Can you tear down your residence and live in a public flat in the future?"
They argued officials lacked understanding of their communities, questioning how the existing transport network could cope with further population growth. "Come to Sheung Shui station one morning at 8am and try to take a train ride to Kowloon," said one villager.
Kwu Tong North village head Nam Siu-fu said: "From 2008 until now, we have just been told the same stuff.
"The government should address our demands instead of just repeating themselves."
Fellow resident Lee Siu-wah - whose home will become a space for flowers under the new plan - said: "Our demands are simple: keep our village, no relocation."
The HK$120 billion plan covers 333 hectares, with 60,700 flats to be built for 174,900 people.