Hong Kong’s best-preserved Hakka village will be revitalised, after the city’s urban planning watchdog approved a plan on Friday. But some villagers opposed the plan, fearing commercialisation and damage to nature and heritage.
The Town Planning Board gave the green light to the proposal by the conservation charity Hong Kong Countryside Foundation, along with advice for more communication and explanation to worried villagers.
According to the application document, the foundation wanted to restore 14 vacant houses in the 400-year-old Hakka village in Lai Chi Wo.
Under a 20-year lease proposed by the foundation, the houses would be turned into guest rooms for at most 56 visitors, highlighting Hakka-style heritage accommodation services.
The foundation offered to provide free round-trip ferry services to the village, which is only accessible by boat as it is inside the Plover Cove Country Park in the northeastern New Territories.
This is the second phase of the plan. Along with 16 village houses from the first phase, approved by the Town Planning Board in August 2017, the foundation would have a total of 30 – or one in every seven of the 210 houses in the village – in its experiential tourism project if permission was granted.
Those who opposed the plan included the Lai Chi Wo Indigenous Residents Concern Group, some villagers, and individuals outside the Hakka community.
The objections were “mainly on the grounds that it would commercialise the village and damage its history, heritage and traditions, cause adverse ecological, landscape, environmental, feng shui and cumulative impact, impose risks on the safety and security aspects and affect the privacy and daily living of the villagers”, the document summarised.
There were also complaints about a lack of consultation and a suggestion the project would only benefit a certain group of people.