Residents threaten bay blockade
FURIOUS Rennie's Mill residents yesterday warned of violent protests to block dredging works off the Sai Kung cottage area until their demands for more clearance compensation are met.
They claimed at least 300 residents were prepared to stage a sea rally to blockade the bay, where two dredgers have been operating since last Tuesday, and might set fire to the barges if they did not leave.
Residents claimed that the barges had no right to start work there without their consent and that their operation had produced noise pollution.
The contractor, Geoworks Contractors Company, denied the allegations and said it was considering applying for court injunctions to ban the protesters from going near its dredgers.
The dispute began on Sunday, when 50 residents went on to one of the dredgers at about 10 pm and scuffled with six crew members.
They claimed they were complaining that the dredging work was so noisy they could not sleep, but said the crew did not listen to them.
Geoworks Contractors said some workers were too scared to return to work and one dredger was stranded yesterday.
Residents' representative and Sai Kung District Board member Mr Wong Kwok-yee said: ''The company has no right to do any dredging in our waters. We have not reached agreement with the Government on compensations yet.
''We are ready to stage a rally to blockade the bay. We are serious that we shall use whatever means, including setting fire to the dredgers, to stop the works.'' Mr Wong claimed the dredgers were operating 24 hours a day and the noise was so loud that residents living on the hilltop could hear it.
However, the managing director of Geoworks Contractors, Mr Heung Che-kan, said the dredgers had never operated beyond the designated hours of 7 am to 7 pm.
Mr Heung said: ''They were barbaric. They went on to our barges and beat our workers.'' The company had reported to the environmental and works authorities, as well as the police, and they had accepted its explanations.
The Environmental Protection Department has received no complaints from residents since the dredging work started last December.
A spokeswoman said a licence to extend the dredging hours to 11 pm had been granted and came into effect yesterday.
She added that inspectors would be sent to check the works more frequently.
The department, district office, and police called a meeting last night with the contractor and residents to hear their complaints.
Rennie's Mill has been the home for more than 1,000 former Nationalist Party supporters since they fled the mainland in 1949. Plans to redevelop the site into a new town were approved last December.