Rural leaders, unable to reach agreement with the government over illegal structures on New Territories houses and conservation of private land in or abutting country parks, threw down the gauntlet yesterday. Walking out of a closed-door meeting with Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Heung Yee Kuk members said they might tour European countries where many of the owners of affected properties now live, talking to the landlords and complaining to the Chinese embassies in those countries. 'The government can't be reasoned with. They don't know the history of the New Territories. They will have to bear the consequences,' said Shap Pat Heung Rural Committee chairman Leung Fuk-yuen, who was at the meeting. It was arranged three months after the minister announced a long-awaited proposal to crack down on illegal additions that would affect thousands of village houses. Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat said no consensus was reached over houses standing on so-called 'old leases' that were drafted before current building codes took effect. Officials have said any village houses higher than the three-storey standard format will have to be demolished. The kuk, representing villagers in the New Territories where extra storeys are prevalent in dozens of villages with old leases, insists such structures should be exempt. 'We didn't arrive at a timetable when the crackdown would start either,' Lau said. The minister had earlier told lawmakers she would seek funding in the government budget next February to hire more building officers to enforce the law. Yesterday's meeting also heard kuk members' views on the government change of rules to include private land in country parks. The country park proposal was prompted by the row over excavation work on land at scenic Sai Wan on the Sai Kung coastline last year. It would involve 1,300 hectares of land in 54 enclaves in country parks, not covered by any land-use zoning plan. 'Many landlords have houses on those enclaves and have emigrated to Europe. If no compensation is offered and they go home one day, they may become homeless,' Lau said. He suggested a land exchange as compensation for freezing villagers' lots as country park land. Kuk vice-chairman Cheung Hok-ming said landlords living in Europe had requested a meeting in the United Kingdom and suggested airing their grievances at the Chinese embassies in Europe. The kuk might make the visit in November, Cheung said. Chinese University political scientist Ma Ngok said it was an unreasonable move to complain to the embassies. 'It is not surprising the kuk would want to bypass the Hong Kong government and complain to the central government, but it's a bit far and strange if it is in Europe because the Foreign Ministry is not supposed to handle matters like this.' He said the kuk's warnings appeared to be more of a scare tactic than a prelude to real radical action.