Safety

There is evidence that ramifications of the Small House Policy are leading to an increase in safety hazards for residents of villages in the New Territories. With frequent reports of disputes, intimidation, damage, and violence amongst villagers for reasons ranging from lack of access to roads to official/unofficial parking areas, concerted effort toward village safety has moved up on the priority list. In recent months villagers have faced physical beating while others have had tires slashed, shattered windows and threatening letters with razors sent to their homes over parking disputes. Likened to the Wild West when law and order was out of control, a family received a rock through the window of their home for refusing to pay ‘rent’ for parking on Government land. Certain offensive acts have also been caught on video. For example, the car port exit of a house was blocked with large concrete blocks in retaliation over a complaint by the owner which could have triggered physical violence as well.

Another safety issue of major concern is the lack of access for fire engines and EMTs within the tight warren of village roads. As quoted in TheHouseNews.com:

Government decided that access to a new house should be negotiated among villagers themselves and the land leases state that Government does not guarantee the right of access.

In October of 2013, the death of two young boys in a fire at their home in Pat Heung Upper Village was linked to the prevailing Small House Policy. “Access has been made worse when the Heung Yee Kuk negotiated a relaxation of Emergency Vehicle Access requirements so more houses could be built on the remaining land. As a result the 642 villages are without a sustainable layout of roads and parking.” There has been repeated warning by local community leader Paul Zimmerman of Designing Hong Kong that death was a matter of time under the prevailing Small House Policy. He suggests that lack of access for fire engines in villages is a result of the manner in which Hong Kong Government administrates the policy adding that while the negotiation of access for emergencies services was acceptable in years past, today it poses grave consequences.

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