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|December 25th, 2010, 05:24 PM||#11|
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Villagers can't delay move any longer, official says
25 November 2010
South China Morning Post
Eviction of villagers blocking a work site for the new cross-border express rail line had been done in a humane, effective and transparent way, the secretary for transport and housing said yesterday - sparking a sceptical response from a legislator who questioned her on the removals.
Eva Cheng said the clearance of Choi Yuen Tsuen was being done in phases to accommodate the needs of the villagers, some of whom are vowing to fight for their homes with their lives.
Answering a question from lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, Cheng said the resumption of the village land could not be delayed any longer.
"The construction involves changing the river channel, and hence has to begin during the dry season," she told lawmakers. "We have been flexible in evacuating the houses - claiming the land of the settled houses first to allow more time for the reluctant homeowners to consider the compensation package offered by the government."
Leung was given approval under a section of the Legco rules of procedure, which allows lawmakers to ask a question without prior notice if it is considered to have urgency and is of public importance. Given the government's pledge to conduct the eviction humanely, Leung asked how this would be done in the face of villagers' pledge to fight to the end.
He also wanted to know what plans the government had to meet the hold-outs and whether the deadline for clearance could be extended for six months. Having heard Cheng's response, he asked: "Will you have face-to-face confrontations with the villagers? Is that what you call humane treatment?"
Cheng did not make any promise to meet the villagers.
About 50 households who want to transfer their farms to a site at Pat Heung have been urging a delay of at least six months while they settle land-purchase issues. Another 30 families are staying because they are not satisfied with the compensation offered for their crops.
Cheng added: "They can appeal for more compensation after leaving the village."