Residents of Wang Chau, an area in the New Territories, rejected the government’s latest plans to demolish their villages to make way for development on Tuesday.
In a series of emotional testimonies at the Legislative Council, several villagers said that the government’s offers to compensate and re-house displaced families could never replace the homes they’ve lived in for decades.
“Now we don’t even have a home, how do you expect us villagers to go on?” one woman asked council members, breaking down into tears. “How can the Hong Kong government treat its people like this?
“No matter where you arrange to move us, we won’t like it.”
The fight has become emblematic of rural villages’ struggle to survive in Hong Kong in the face of looming development.
The government’s plan to raze three villages in Wang Chou — Wing Ning Tsuen, Fung Chi Tsuen and Yeung Uk Sun Tsuen — and displace nearly 200 non-indigenous families in order to build public housing and a school first came to light in 2015, when the Lands Department issued eviction notices to residents. But the plan has been mired in controversy since it was changed to target just villages in the green belt and exclude sites owned by politically powerful indigenous leaders. Residents also say they were not consulted at all.
On Tuesday, villagers reiterated their intention to stay in their homes. Lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and members of the Land Justice League also convened a press conference, criticizing the government’s offers to villagers as misleading because few, if any, would qualify for the maximum compensation.
On Ki Lam, an activist working with the villagers, told Coconuts HK that she believes the government’s latest position is actually aimed at clearing the land more quickly.
“The government wants people to see that they are treating people well, but it’s really to speed up the demolition, when there are actually better options for the villagers.”
The better option, she said, would be to develop a brownfield site adjacent to the villages.
In 2016, the government postponed plans to develop the brownfield site indefinitely, citing the land’s complex ownership structure and the need for more studies on how to move industrial operations.