The government has been caught in another controversial land deal after it decided to construct vehicular access around a pond in Yuen Long that has been acquired by rural villagers for property development under the small house policy.
Providing vehicular access to the pond will mean levelling the area and allowing the villagers to construct small homes in the property and later resell them for big profits, Apple Daily reports.
Investigation by the newspaper revealed that the site, some 200,000 square feet of pond at Shui Mei Tsuen in Kam Tin, Yuen Long, was snapped up by the family of solicitor Edward Wong Kwong-wing for nearly HK$40 million in 2013.
The property was then subdivided into more than 70 smaller plots and sold to several villagers, all surnamed Tang, for only $100,000 each, a substantial discount of more 80 percent to the original purchase price.
It is believed that the dubious transactions will allow the owners to build houses in the area under the government’s Small House Policy which gives indigenous male villagers the right to build small houses in the New Territories.
They can later sell their properties at much higher prices than they bought them.
The government’s decision to build a 400-meter vehicular access next to the pond will further raise the value of the properties to the benefit of the owners.
According to the Conservancy Association, the pond was purchased by a company called Mix Vantage Limited in 2013 for HK$39.51 million.
The sale and purchase agreements for the 70 subdivided plots were all entered into in February 2014, with the registered address of the buyers and sellers being identical.
According to the Companies Registry, the sole director of Mix Vantage is Lam Yee-mei, who is the wife of Edward Wong, whose eldest son Wilson Wong is the vice chairman of the Yuen Long District Council.
Edward Wong has been active in the development and trading of small houses in New Territories.
In a press interview in 2012, he admitted being a rural housing developer by acquiring rights to build small houses from male indigenous villagers and plots for such houses.
The timing of the government’s decision to build a vehicular access next to the pond is highly suspicious, Peter Lee Siu-man of the Conservancy Association said.
“To roll out such a decision just one year after Mix Vantage Limited sold its subdivided plots to villagers could be a case of government transferring benefits to rural stakeholders, or is this a case of government-rural cooperation?” Lee said. “Were any talks held prior to all these decisions?”
The Home Affairs Bureau revealed that the construction of the vehicular access would cost taxpayers HK$4 million, and the construction is expected to be completed by the end of this year, Ming Pao Daily reported.
The bureau said the project was approved based on the recommendations of a district councilor to alleviate traffic congestion caused by the huge number of visitors to the picturesque area during weekends.
The Conservancy Association said the pond is connected to the famous Kam Tin Tree House, a 400-year-old giant Banyan tree.
If the pond is levelled, the heritage tree could die from lack of water.
Time for HK to rethink its old Small House Policy (May. 20, 2015)
Sha Tin battle sheds light on small house policy that never was (Oct. 6, 2015)
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