Thursday, 30 November 2017

land grab

A few days ago, Paula informed me that a notice had appeared on the footpath linking the villages of Kun Lung Wai and San Uk Tsuen informing users of the footpath that the owner of the land planned to block it. Someone has since removed the notice, but not before I’d had an opportunity to photograph it:

This is the translation:
Private land

This path is ‘private land’. The landlord will retrieve the space and it will be blocked and impassable. Now I am informing you to find an alternative path.
The bottom line refers to the system of land tenure in the New Territories. However, the first thing to note is that there is no reasonable alternative path. There is a single-track road, which is the principal vehicular access from the major artery of Sha Tau Kok Road to Kan Lung Wai and also to the villages of Siu Hang and Siu Hang San Tsuen on the north side of the Ng Tung River. However, this road is unsuitable for bicycles because of its narrowness and the frequency of motor traffic. It isn’t even particularly convenient for pedestrians, although there is a sidewalk for part of its length.

This morning, I walked from San Uk Tsuen to Kun Lung Wai to try to illustrate why I regard this as a blatant land grab that should not be allowed to proceed. This is where the path starts in San Uk Tsuen (it turns right in front of the gates):

This is as far as motor vehicles can go:

…for obvious reasons:

This S-bend is located in the distance in the previous photo:

…while this is a view of the bend from the other side:

The ‘alternative’ route may be awkward for pedestrians and cyclists, but it would be impossible for someone pushing a loaded barrow.

I didn’t hang around deliberately to photograph users of the path, but the number of cyclists, in particular, that appear in the following photos is a good indication of how important this path is locally. Hundreds of people use this path every day, and it would be monumentally inconvenient if some greedy asshole decided, arbitrarily, to block it off. In fact, if someone really does own the land on which this path is located, I would suggest that the presence of streetlights indicates a public right of way, and blocking the path would therefore be illegal.

The first photo shows the woman with the barrow in the distance.

The red circle in the next photo indicates the approximate position of the notice, which measured no more than 25×15cm. Not exactly obvious, was it?

The concrete wall on the right of the path is a relatively new addition, being no more than two or three years old. It encloses what I expect will become a small private estate that is still only partially built.

And this may be why the developer wants to block the footpath:

The photo was taken from the fire hydrant in the next photo, looking back. It seems to me that if the developer wanted vehicular access to this land, there is a more convenient option on the far side of the enclosed land. This appears to be merely a cheaper option.

What used to be merely a footpath has already been widened:

Closing this footpath will be a serious nuisance for everyone who lives in the area. Paula and I use it only occasionally, when we’re obliged to catch a minibus home late at night that runs only along Sha Tau Kok Road. I wonder how many other locals are aware of what is being proposed.

I’ve already suggested that blocking this path is probably illegal, but there is another factor that supports my stance. The Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail, which was established in December 1999, runs along this path. According to the Antiquities and Monuments Office website, which is part of the Hong Kong government’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department, this trail was set up “with the full support of local residents”. I can’t imagine local residents being too happy about the proposed development that I’ve documented in this post.


  1. This area looks very historic. It's not just a road or a path, it's an artery running through the community.

    Many (if not most) developers have no soul.
    Many civic leaders sell their souls to the developers for increased taxes, or outright bribes and kickbacks.

    1. It is historic Pat, although none of the sights that make it historic are visible in any of the photos. However, the walled village at one end of this path dates back to the mid-eighteenth century, while the local ancestral hall was built in 1525. And, as you say, all local cyclists and pedestrians pass this way. I’m still pondering my next move.


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