Several inhabitants of the New Territories village of Wang Chau set up camp outside the Legislative Council on Thursday night, on the eve of a motion to grant government funds to develop part of the village as housing.
Lawmaker Eddie Chu brought public attention to the controversy immediately after he was elected into office last September.
At Wang Chau, the government had initially proposed in 2012 to develop a brownfield site – consisting of polluted farmland – into public housing. The site had been turned into an outdoor storage site operated by a powerful rural leader.
However, in 2014, the proposal was changed, such that the brownfield site would be left untouched. Instead, hundreds of villagers on greenbelt land nearby were ordered to leave to make room for the housing project.
Reports of soft-lobbying meetings between government officials – even Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying himself – and rural leaders then emerged. The government claimed that no records were kept of the meetings.
Despite the allegations, the government pushed the development plan forward. On Friday, it put a motion to the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee, requesting HK$122 million in funds to construct the Wang Chau project.
The Wang Chau item was inserted within an larger bloc of 9,000 government funding requests – the majority of which were uncontroversial. The package could only be approved or rejected as a whole.
A proposal from Eddie Chu and fellow pro-democracy lawmaker Edward Yiu to extract the minority of controversial projects from the bloc of 9,000 requests was rejected on Friday afternoon.
“If we don’t defend Wang Chau, Hong Kong will fall too,” read one protest sign on Thursday night. “The black box of Wang Chau,” stated another.
The Finance Committee meeting continues on Saturday.