南華早報 | 2010年12月19日
CITY 1 and 3
這位四十七歲的維修技工說：「我們看電視，見到政府給菜園村 [因興建高鐵被收地] 很多賠償，又幫他們找地方重建新村。有些鄰居更以為我們會得到更好的待遇，因為至少我們有村選舉，是被承認的鄉村。」
Villagers fear eviction as development nears Villagers fear eviction as development nears;
Final stage of consultation on 3 new towns looms
December 19, 2010
As Au Lau-kan toils in his fields, he frets over when contractors will come to clear the last remaining houses in his village in the next few months.
Au, who owns a 5,000 square foot plot of land, where his house stands, and rents 30,000 sq ft of farmland from Henderson Land Development, is one of the remaining 50-odd families in Ma Shi Po village.
Once home to 200 families, the village has seen an increasing number of residents move out since government planners placed it in one of the three "new development areas" of the northeastern New Territories in 1998.
The three new towns were proposed in Fanling North, Kwu Tung and Ta Kwu Ling mainly for low-rise residential use. The new town proposals, one of the government's 10 major infrastructure projects, have featured in two public consultation exercises, and the final phase of consultation is to begin in the first half of next year.Land-use plans for the three areas, totalling 1,000 hectares, have been the subject of consultation among building professionals, environmentalists, landowners and developers.
The consultation document does not say how many homes will be cleared. But social workers and villagers estimate more than 1,000 families in non-indigenous villages will be affected."Officials consulted everyone except those who live here," Au said. "They drew plans over the map and decided my home would become a housing estate.
But they never mentioned relocation measures to us," the 54-year-old, who has lived there all his life, said. "Officials might think it's easy to let private developers take over the land. But what do I do without my farm?"
When initiating the new town plan in 1998 - the plan was later shelved until 2008 - the government came up with a "public-private partnership" development approach because more than half the area of the three new development areas is private land. It gave up the conventional method it used in the 1960s and '70s, where it was responsible for land assembly through resumption and clearance.This means villagers are left to deal with developers or landlords on their own.
Small landlords like Au have found themselves living in an ever-more-desolate neighbourhood, with 90 vacated houses having been knocked down in the past year.
Au said Henderson, which started acquiring land in Fanling 10 years ago, had stepped up moves to evict tenant villagers, asking them to move after the Lunar New Year.
The developer said resumption was to be settled by not renewing leases with tenants, and it would pay HK$100,000 to each household as a subsidy.
"I like my lifestyle. Is there an alternative? Can you find me another piece of land to continue farming?" Au asked.
His daughter, equally in love with village life, left her job in Central to campaign with young activists against the development.
They set up a community farm, bringing in groups of visitors at weekends and briefing them on the villagers' situation. They also succeeded in getting the Environmental Protection Department to act to get the developer's contractors to clear piles of toxic asbestos waste left after homes were demolished.
A Henderson spokeswoman said it was just "rumours" that the developer had set a deadline to clear the village, and it would try to help villagers to find farmland elsewhere.
Au said the idea of help was once mentioned during negotiations but the developer did not provide details.Apart from Ma Shi Po, where eviction and clearance are speeding up, three other non-indigenous villages in Fanling North and one in Kwu Tung North face the same fate. Officials refer to such settlers as "squatters" and do not regard them as villagers because the term village is only applied to indigenous settlements established before 1898.In one of these villages, Shek Wu San, New World Development has acquired land and the remaining 100 households live on government land.
Villager Lam Yuk-kwan said he and others staying put had asked the government to reserve space in future developments for them. "But it looks hopeless. The planning process is just not transparent," he said.In another proposed new area in Kwu Tung, some villagers said they had hardly been informed of the plan, although signs of developments were sprouting inside and outside the settlement: a large rectangular site has been fenced and reserved for a future railway station; across Fanling Highway, Sun Hung Kai's luxury estate The Valais is under construction.One villager said: "Every time I ask officials whether I have to leave, they only tell me the plan is not yet finalised." The proposed uses for the area of his village, at the centre of the proposed new town, are private residential, commercial, research and a railway station.
"We watched TV and saw the government compensate Tsoi Yuen Tsuen [resumed for a high-speed railway line] a lot and help them find a new place to rebuild the village. Some neighbours actually thought we would get even better treatment, because at least ours is a recognised village having rural elections," the 47-year-old mechanic said.
The three indigenous villages within the new town boundaries will be able to stay, with their land zoned for either village houses or "comprehensive development with nature conservation enhancement", allowing low-density residential use. Some of the wetland slated for conservation enhancement is owned by Cheung Kong (Holdings).
Chan Kim-ching, a research student in geography who has formed an action group to help villagers fight for their interests, said the public-private partnership approach had brought a lot of unrest in the past few years.
For example, vacated houses built of asbestos, a toxic material that needs specific safeguards in the demolition process, were randomly knocked down until villagers lodged a complaint with the Environmental Protection Department.Asked how many "non-indigenous villages" were affected, the Planning Department declined to give an answer, saying "there is no clear definition" for the term.
It said consultants were revising a development plan, taking into account comments received from previous consultations, and "more time is needed to consider how best to address the needs of different stakeholders in a balanced manner".