Education chiefs have rejected an application by rural leaders and Mui Wo residents to take over a vacant school site on Lantau that the operators of a drug rehabilitation college want to turn into a boarding school. But the Heung Yee Kuk and the South Lantau Education Concern Group, which want to reopen the school to serve locals, say the Education Bureau's dismissal of their move is unfair and have vowed to fight on. Christian Zheng Sheng College, which has faced vehement protests from Mui Wo residents, says it still wants the site and the bureau is considering its request. Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat handed a proposal to Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung last month to reopen the former New Territories Heung Yee Kuk Southern District Secondary School under the government's direct subsidy scheme. But just days later, on February 8, it received a rejection letter from the bureau. The kuk only announced the rejection yesterday. A co-opted member of the kuk council, Lam Luk-wing, said the proposal had been rejected even before a formal application had been made. 'We originally planned to hand in a formal application by the end of this month. The proposal is just a draft. Their summary rejection reinforced the view that the Education Bureau has already made their decision to give the site to Zheng Sheng.' Lam said they would go ahead with their plan. A delegation will visit a direct subsidy scheme school in Siu Sai Wan today to look at its operations. He said the new school would have six forms, each with four classes. Efforts by the Christian group to take over the school brought strong protests from Mui Wo residents last year who demanded the school - closed in 2007 because of low enrolment - be reopened to serve them. Allegations made then about the group's finances are being investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption. The concern group was set up in July to discuss reopening the school through the direct subsidy scheme, under which private schools receive government funding but can charge fees and set their own curriculum. Lam said the kuk aimed to raise HK$10 million to establish the school. The rural body found more than 10 possible alternatives for Zheng Sheng, but college principal Alman Chan Siu-cheuk said none met their requirements on size, facilities and neighbourhood atmosphere. 'The Mui Wo site is the only one that fulfils all our requirements,' he said. 'The relative seclusion and small community there provide ideal conditions for our rehabilitation work, but we respect the kuk's decision to apply for the site and we will wait for the government's decision.' The college wants the building so it can move out of its present overcrowded premises at Chi Ma Wan, also on Lantau. Wong Fuk-kan, an Islands district councillor and member of Mui Wo Rural Committee, criticised the college for sticking to its guns at the expense of Mui Wo residents' interests. 'While students from the rehabilitation college can be relocated elsewhere, Mui Wo residents have no choice,' said Wong, a concern group member. 'There's no secondary school in southern Lantau now and around 400 students have to travel a long way to go to school every day.' Legislators are due to discuss the college relocation next week. The Education Bureau said there was no need to establish a local or international school on the premises, given the steady student population in Islands District and south Lantau. 'The administration is considering the possibility of using the premises for reprovisioning Zheng Sheng's facilities and will continue the process of engaging the local community,' a spokeswoman said. Lau said he hoped the use of the school site could be decided soon. 'Whether the Southern District Secondary School is reopened or not, and whether Zheng Sheng College gives up the application for the site or not, residents hope there is a clear answer as soon as possible.' Christian Zheng Sheng College has been pursuing the vacant secondary school since December 2006. Graftbusters launched an investigation into the college and its operators last year following allegations that it was using government money to finance investments in Hong Kong, the mainland and Japan.