A senior government official and members of his family have filed applications with the Town Planning Board to build five houses in a village near a beach in Sai Kung, raising concerns that their approval could bring irreparable damage to the environment and cultural relics in the area.
In a letter attached to the applications, Dr. Thomas Sit Hon-chung, assistant director (for inspection and quarantine) at the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, said his ancestors have been living for five generations in Ham Tin village near Tai Long Sai Wan, one of the four beaches of Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung, Apple Daily reported.
Although he and family members have moved to the urban area many years ago in search of a better life, Sit said they want to return to the village and keep its culture alive.
He promised the home constructions will have as little, if any, damage to the environment as possible.
In another statement coursed through the Information Services Department, Sit maintained that he and his family remained members of the Ham Tin village and that their applications were all in compliance with the rules set under the government’s New Territories Small House Policy.
The policy, introduced in 1972, was intended to improve the low standard of housing then prevailing in the rural areas of the New Territories.
Under the rules, an indigenous male villager, who is 18 years old and is descended through the male line from a resident in 1898 of a recognized village in the New Territories, is entitled to one concessionary grant during his lifetime to build one small house in the village.
The applications, which are posted for public consultation until Friday, show that the five houses cover a total area of thousands of square feet and are very close to one another. With built-in septic tanks, the houses are in fact less than 100 meters away from the beach of the Sai Kung East Country Park and 1.5 kilometers from the Tai Long Sai Wan, one of the city’s popular beaches considered to be of high ecological value.
The planned house constructions are also close to an archaeological site dating back to 2,500-4,000 years ago and a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of the presence of endangered plant species.
Several other indigenous members of the village are planning to follow the Sit family’s action, while others say Sit may be setting a bad example by seeking to build five houses when one should be enough.
Peter Li, an officer of the non-governmental organization Conservancy Association, said the proposed constructions will not only damage the area, which has been classified as Grade I historic village by the government, but also make the public feel that government officials are being given special privileges.
Li also questioned Sit’s plan to build five houses all at once, saying it raised suspicions that he intends to sell some of them for profit.
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