Date
18 December 2017
Hong Kong's Secretary for Development Paul Chan is yet to allay concerns over a development plan for northeastern New Territories. Photo: am730
Hong Kong's Secretary for Development Paul Chan is yet to allay concerns over a development plan for northeastern New Territories. Photo: am730

Paul Chan fails to defuse tensions over New Territories plan

Hong Kong development secretary Paul Chan’s visit to northeastern villages in New Territories on Wednesday did not end in success as the official failed to satisfy the demand of activists and villagers for an open debate on the proposed development plan for the area.

The Kwu Tung North Development Concern Group and more than 50 villagers left the meeting venue in protest after Chan failed to give an assurance that he will participate in an open debate with protestors at a location at government headquarters in Admiralty, Ming Pao Daily News reported.

Chan said only a few people out of the 150 villagers that showed up for the meeting Wednesday evening had left midway. He insisted that the door to open dialogue will always remain open and that people shouldn’t be too bothered about the upcoming budget allocation meeting for the proposed area development.

The budget allocation meeting for the proposed northeastern New Territories development is scheduled to take place on Friday, June 27.

Some angry villagers have threatened to stop the budget allocation from being approved on Friday at all costs.

At the meeting on Wednesday, Chan started by stressing that it is impossible to agree with the villagers’ request to not tear down existing houses and relocate villagers. Chan said his aim in holding the meeting was to clarify some of the misunderstandings among the people over the development plan.

Sheung Shui Rural Committee chairman Hau Chi-keung supported the project, saying that most of the opponents were not indigenous villagers. The opposing activists were treating New Territories as their “playground” to reap personal benefits, he said.

Hau added that the government should consider raising the relocation compensation to HK$2 million (about US$258,000) per family, from HK$600,000, and that additional land plots should be identified for construction of settlement homes for affected villagers and nursery homes for the aged.

Some residents who are now living as squatters said they fear they would fail the income assessment tests for moving to public housing estates, and called on the government to waive such assessments. Chan said their worries are understandable and there is room for negotiation and discussion to find a solution, the report said.

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EL/AC/RC

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