Traders in Lei Yue Mun fishing village shut up shop yesterday in a one-day protest over government plans to sell off land for a private housing project that they say will leave visitors with nowhere to park and "kill off their livelihoods".
The village located on the harbour near Yau Tong, Kowloon, was deserted as more than 80 businesses - including market stalls, 33 seafood restaurants, and the wet market - kept their doors shut yesterday.
The action was taken after government officials told village representatives on May 2 that on June 9 they plan to end the short-term lease on two sites along the nearby Lei Yue Mun Path that are currently used as public car parks with space for 136 vehicles.
Once the land is reclaimed next month, another area nearby will be designated for temporary parking until the development is complete, but it has room for only 40 cars.
"It's basically killing off our livelihoods," said Wan Ka-shun, 20, who works for his family's business which includes restaurants and stalls. "It's like taking the bed out of a home."
Wan said 80 per cent of restaurant customers drive to Lei Yue Mun as other transportation to the village is limited.
He said that current parking spaces were already insufficient and queues for parking snaked up towards Yau Tong MTR station - a 15 minute uphill walk from the village. Lei Yue Mun is served by just two red minibus routes, from Mong Kok and Kwun Tong.
"The cars with monthly parking rentals alone would take up all of those 40 spaces. There won't be room for those driving in to dine," said Leung Chi-kong, a third-generation Lei Yue Mun resident who runs a restaurant.
"There was no public consultation and no supporting measures for those affected. It's unfair," Leung added.
A spokeswoman for the Lands Department said that the developer would be required to provide at least 200 public parking spaces.
However, Wong Ping-kuen, a spokesman for the Safeguard Lei Yue Mun Car Parks Concern Group, said: "It could take years for the plots to go to bidding and for the development to be completed. In the meantime, the tourist industry would already have been destroyed."
Wong said businesses were not against residential development, but thought the government should take the expected growth in visitors into consideration. He also said the 200 spaces were not enough and believed some 500 spaces were needed to address the parking problem.
Wong added that the government had promised to build a multi-storey car park in the 1990s, but it never materialised. Instead the Town Planning Board this year approved the government's application to have the site rezoned to build some 370 flats.
"A shortage of car parks near a tourist attraction is like a haemorrhage for us. If a customer cannot find a space once, twice … they will just go somewhere else to eat," he said.
The traders, who say they might apply for a judicial review of the government's decision, plan to stage a sit-in at the two existing car parks on June 9.
The government said it is ready to expand roads near the village to ease traffic congestion and will be meeting with stakeholders to canvass their views.