Hong Kong housing

Security guard hurt as emotions run high at land supply forum among residents in Hong Kong’s New Territories

Land Justice League activist Ng Cheuk-hang accused of pushing guard on stairs while unregistered participants try to force their way into public consultation meeting

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 July, 2018, 6:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 July, 2018, 11:15pm

A special task force exploring land supply options could submit its findings a month before the city’s leader delivers her policy address, the chairman said on Saturday, as a fractious public forum resulted in a security guard being injured in a skirmish.

At the forum, hosted by the Land Supply Task Force on Saturday in Tai Po, Stanley Wong Yuen-fai said there was “a good chance” a summary of the public opinions on 18 options to ease Hong Kong’s space crunch would be submitted to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in September.

He added that the summary would provide “some directional and general ideas” for the government. “The detailed analysis will have to be done after all the public engagement exercises finish on September 26, so the final report won’t be before the policy address,” he said.

The options have been open for citywide debate since April. Official studies found Hong Kong was short 1,200 hectares to meet its needs for housing and other developments over the next three decades. The options include some highly controversial suggestions, such as reclaiming land from the sea; turning Hong Kong Golf Club, in Fanling, into public housing complexes; and developing lands at the periphery of country parks and in the New Territories.

In an indication of the debate’s heatedness, a security guard was hurt in a minor fracas when protesters tried to force their way into the forum, which was fully booked.

The guard, 55-year-old Andrew Chan, said he was pushed over on some concrete stairs as he tried to stop Ng Cheuk-hang, of the Land Justice League, attempting to get several unregistered participants into the meeting.

“I am also pro-democracy,” Chan said. “I joined the June 4 candlelight vigil and the July 1 march. But I am on duty today. I had to do my job, but what I got was [verbal attacks against] my parents.”

Ng said he had not intended to push Chan, and said if the security guard was hurt “he can call an ambulance”.

“If he thinks it was me who hurt him, he can call the police and have me arrested,” Ng said.

Land supply options report to be driven by public views, not what Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam wants, task force chief says

The young activist defended trying to get “two or three unregistered residents” into the forum.

“Why were we so emotional? How can you not be when your home is about to be demolished?” Ng said.

He said many of the residents who could be affected by the government’s plan to develop countryside lands in the New Territories had not been able to register for the forum and “just wanted to get in and be heard”.

Chan was wheeled out of the community centre by medical staff about 30 minutes after the forum started.

Most of the people who spoke said the government should take the Fanling golf course’s land for public housing and should not reclaim land from the sea.

Lui Yuk-lin gave task force members a palm-sized model of a house and asked whether they were afraid of the rich and powerful behind the golf course.

“Have any of you ever had to take your clothes to a laundry every week like the subdivided flat residents who can’t have a washing machine at home? It will be a decision of no conscience, no humanity and no wisdom if the golf course is not taken for public housing,” Lui said.

An 18-year-old woman, Tang Lai-fong, said she had lived in a subdivided flat all her life and had to submit her application for a public housing flat on her 18th birthday.

“Is this a wish Hong Kong’s youth should have?” Tang asked.

“You said the golf course is home to a lot of precious trees but I can never visit there because I am not one of the club’s 2,000 members,” she said. “I often go to the country parks because they are beautiful and free. But you want to develop lands in the park instead of the golf course.”

At about 4.45pm, 15 minutes before the forum was supposed to end, protesters of the Land Justice Alliance stood up and shouted slogans, urging the government to take back land leased to the club. The protest lasted for 15 minutes and the protesters were driven out by security guards.

Wong Chak-yan, vice-chairman of the task force as well as a member of the golf club, said the task force had been placed under a lot of pressure.

“If we were not committed to doing something, we would not list [the golf course] as one of the land supply options,” Wong said, adding that he did not join any task force discussion on the golf course, to avoid a conflict of interests.

Stanley Wong repeatedly emphasised the task force didn’t have any stance on any of the 18 supply options.

“Our final report will honestly reflect what we learn from the public,” Wong said.

Stanley Wong also sent his sympathies to the injured security guard and appealed to the public to express their ideas rationally in subsequent forums.