Hongkongers protest vote on high-speed rail

09:57, January 18, 2010      

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By Song Shengxia

Approval by Hong Kong legislators of a new high-speed railway was met with protests over the weekend, and many villagers vowed not to leave their homes to make way for the HK$66.9 billion ($8.6 billion) project.

The controversial line is set to link Hong Kong to the mainland by rail, slashing travel times.

Lawmakers approved the project Saturday by a 31-21 vote, showing that it had its dissenters both inside and outside, as many people showed up outside the Legislative Council and protested at all entrances and exits, going as far as attempting to keep legislators from leaving afterward.

The project had been delayed twice amid objections about the plan''s cost and relocation requirements, as well as environmental concerns.

Eva Cheng, secretary for transport and housing in Hong Kong, said after the meeting that the construction of the high-speed railway "is in the best long-term interests of Hong Kong," and she promised to strictly control the expenditure and carefully spend public dollars.

Ko Chun-heung, one of the protesters who is now serving as the chairwoman of a concern group, said building the express railway would ruin her homeland.

"The construction of the railway is unfair to villagers who have built their own village through hard labor and dedication," she told the Global Times. "We have made up our minds not to relocate."

She said that government compensation, no matter how much it is, won''t soften the blow of ruining the village.

After Saturday''s meeting, Cheng suggested that the deadline for residents in Choi Yuen Tsuen, a village in the New Territories, to apply for relocation compensation could be extended to the end of next month.

The railway, which will link Hong Kong to Shenzhen and Guangzhou in the neighboring Guangdong Province by 2015, will travel at speeds of up to 350 kilometers an hour, cutting the travel time between Hong Kong and Guangzhou in half, to 48 minutes.

The project includes a HK$ 55-billion railway construction fund, HK$ 11.8-billion non-railway construction fund and HK$ 86-million relocation fee.

More than 1,000 protesters, mostly students and young professionals, surrounded the legislature Saturday night and refused to let Eva Cheng and other government officials leave, demanding the government review the project.

Source:Global Times

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