Hundreds of people launched a “weed-clearing” operation Sunday, cutting down more than 10 trees on Tung Ping Chau, Apple Daily reported Monday.
The group included former residents of the island and hundreds of villagers from the Heung Yee Kuk, the rural council that represents indigenous villagers in the New Territories.
The former residents asked the government to exclude private land from a country park on the island and to provide infrastructure so that they could move back.
In March, the government reserved a land parcel of 26.7 hectares on the island for future planning, listing it as “for non-designated purpose”.
The former residents saw the move as a way to keep them from building homes on the land.
The indigenous villagers on the island said Sunday’s action was aimed at expressing their demand to be allowed to redevelop their land for farming and that the government should not stop them from fishing for a living.
A representative of the protesters said the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department does not consider any clearing activity illegal as long as the affected plants are not species marked for conservation.
Tung Ping Chau is part of the Hong Kong Global Geopark of China, recognized by the United Nations. A member of the park’s steering committee warned that eligibility for recognition is reviewed every five years, and the UN could delist the geopark if the indigenous villagers continue to damage its environment.
Jim Chi-yung, convenor of the committee, said that extensive consultations had been conducted before the park was established, contradicting claims by indigenous villagers who said their desires had been ignored.
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