Sheung Shui villagers have accused police of offering no help when they were attacked while trying to stop the building of a private columbarium in the village. The clash between residents of Tsiu Keng Lo Wai Tsuen and people claiming to work for the contractor came after work resumed on the project despite what villagers said was an undertaking by the developer not to go ahead if they opposed it. Four people were arrested, including a chronically ill 73-year-old villager who said she had been trying to fend off a group of men with her umbrella after they attacked her son with shovels. The latest in a series of disputes over the building of columbariums in villages, it brought a renewed call for the government to regulate the sector, which is booming in response to a severe shortage of urn spaces. Villagers say the scuffle started on Wednesday when they tried to stop a group of construction workers escorted by a couple of dozen other men and were attacked by the men. 'Police were at the scene but they did nothing to help villagers when they were being attacked,' village leader Tang Chung-hing told a press conference yesterday. The arrested woman, Lam Suet-ying, a survivor of cancer, said she tried to use her umbrella to protect her son. 'About 10 men were attacking my son and some were armed with shovels. Police officers were at the scene, but no one helped my son,' Lam, who was released on HK$500 bail, said. Showing bruises on his body, her son, Tang Bing-wah, 48, said: 'My mother just wanted to save me. But she ended up being arrested. Do we still have justice in Hong Kong?' Tang Chung-hing said most of the village's 300-odd residents opposed the project, which consists of five three-storey buildings being developed by China Choice Enterprises. 'We don't want a columbarium in the village,' he said. 'It will affect our mental health. We don't want the dead to be our neighbours.' He said the land had been owned by previous village leader Lee Kwai-sau, whose son-in-law Johnson Chan Wing-kan, a shareholder of China Choice Enterprises, sold it to the company after Lee's death. 'Chan told us two years ago that they were building luxurious houses on the site,' he said. 'We had a meeting with them last year and they admitted that they were in fact building a private columbarium after we asked them why toilets and kitchens were not being built inside.' He said the company promised it would stop the project if villagers objected and kept its promise until Wednesday, when villagers saw the workers arrive to resume work. 'We estimate that the columbarium will provide over 10,000 niches and the profit can be up to HK$500 million. If they built houses for residential use, the profit will merely be around HK$10 million,' Tang said. Police said four people were arrested - the 73-year-old woman and three men aged 22 to 35. Lawmaker Wong Sing-chi, who is helping the villagers, said he would file a complaint to the police and take the matter to the secretary for security. 'This could have happened to any village in the New Territories, as the private columbarium business is flourishing in Hong Kong due to strong demand,' he said. 'The government should regulate the trade to avoid conflicts between villagers and potential developers who want to join the business.' The Lands Department said four of the five buildings were on old land leases that did not stipulate what the sites could be used for. For the fourth, any non-industrial use is allowed. Asked if human ashes could be placed in the buildings, a spokeswoman for the department said: 'We are closely monitoring the project. Since the buildings have not yet been completed, we cannot comment.' No shareholders of the company could be reached for comment. Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok said yesterday the government would set up a voluntary registration system for private columbariums to better protect consumers' rights but gave no details.