There are troubling aspects in the stand-off at Lo Uk village near Pat Heung, where opposition by indigenous villagers has stalled planning approval for a mosque. I'll bet the place of worship will not get an official go-ahead simply because indigenous villagers don't want it. That's the reality of life in the New Territories. The native sons stand firm and government caves in. The village representative and the rural committee decrees; the District Officer trembles and obeys. What's happening at Lo Uk is sadly demonstrative of rural power politics. It's a classic case of the NIMBY (not in my backyard) syndrome, with a savage twist. For the past 30 years, indigenous village landowners in Lo Uk and surrounding hamlets along Kam Tin Road have been pocketing a very nice little earner by renting out disused paddy fields to noisome industries. Most of these businesses are car wrecking yards, many operated by Pakistanis who are long-time residents of Hong Kong. Decades ago, government wisely pushed noisy, unsightly, messy but vital enterprises to what were then fringe countryside areas. The car-wrecking business, which is astonishingly profitable, sprang up along Kam Tin Road, with indigenous villagers enthusiastically renting out ancestral fields they had not ploughed for years. A pioneer of this business was Haji Ghulam Mustafa. He set up shop 30 years ago and is now president of the Pakistan Traders Association of Hong Kong and a leading sponsor of the mosque near his wrecking yard at Lo Uk. When Haji Mustafa's business became obviously profitable, several of his co-religionists, mostly Pakistanis, followed in his footsteps. The only reason they could operate in the area was because indigenous villagers made good profits from renting out unused agricultural land. So while it's just dandy for villagers - many of them who no longer live there - to make good money from renting land, the people who occupy that land are prevented from using it as they wish. This is a situation with which many New Territories residents are very familiar. Indigenous villagers are adept at developing village housing, for instance, and selling or renting to 'outsiders'. Then they become highly indignant if the newcomers, Chinese or expatriates, don't kowtow to village taboos. In the case of Lo Uk, grievous insult has been piled on injury. In blocking plans for a mosque, a village elder said the faithful coming to pray might commit crimes. He admitted this had never happened. This comment has gravely offended the Iman and his followers. The Muslim community pays $2,000 a month for a site on which it built a mosque. The building never got planning approval. When this was applied for, the Lo Uk village representative opposed the application; in such circumstances, district councillors, other politicians and the District Office staff are never going to defy the whims of hamlet bosses, all of whom know very well how to wield their electoral clout. Government officials are writhing in bureaucratic agony. They are impaled on the spike of indigenous opposition. At the same time, they are desperate to seem politically correct and not to oppose a genuine religious need. Tortuously, the Town Planning Board has told the Muslims to 'seek policy support' from the Home Affairs Department (in real life this means the Yuen Long District Office) to find a site for the mosque to which villagers will not object. This is pretty rich, seeing the Muslims have already paid an indigenous villager for a three-year lease on the land and spent $400,000 to build their simple mosque. To be fair, the villagers have a point. They say the burly Pakistanis in their flowing garments are 'different'. So they are, but so what? The villagers themselves invited their presence by renting them land. A village representative claims noisy prayers keep people awake. This is patent nonsense; the only time the mosque is busy is for the weekly noon prayers on Fridays. I went to the mosque, which is a placid oasis set back from the roaring traffic along Kam Tin Road. There are few village houses close by. The Town Planning Board will rule on the issue next week. Its decision will be interesting. They claim the site is zoned for village development, which means housing for indigenous residents. If so, how come the wrecking yards have been permitted for so long? The complaints against the mosque are a self-serving smokescreen. The situation is simple. The villagers want the Muslims' money, but they don't want the Muslims.