Squatters vow to fight eviction

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 July, 1996, 12:00am

TENSION is rising at the Nationalist stronghold of Rennie's Mill as housing officers and police prepare to evict hundreds of squatters and bulldoze their homes this week.

More than 200 diehards have vowed to defy removal orders and threaten violent resistance until more payouts are given.

About 100 police officers and dog-handlers will escort workers through the maze of alleys at the Sai Kung district site and forcibly carry away those who refuse to move.

Housing officials, policemen and district office staff have been locked in meetings for days, finalising plans for Tuesday's dawn operation. They refused to divulge the size of the eviction squads.

'Before the war, you don't tell how many soldiers you will employ,' a Housing Branch spokesman said yesterday.

A control centre has been set up and the squad will split into three to clear 188 squatters in districts one, three and five by Tuesday night.

One by one, facilities will close.

The ferry service between Rennie's Mill and Eastern District ends tomorrow, and the post office will mark its closure next Saturday with a last-day cover.

Water and electricity supplies to 235 huts earmarked for demolition will be shut off from Tuesday.

The second and final phase of removals is planned for next month.

As of Friday, 232 of the 2,155 households were refusing to accept a government offer of up to $800,000 cash compensation and priority in choosing a Home Ownership Scheme apartment.

Wong Bai-chun, 79, a former Nationalist soldier who fled China in 1949, said: 'We established these homes with our bare hands. They have no right to take our properties.' The clearance was illegal and violence might erupt, Mr Wong warned.

He is one of 82 squatters who put their case to the High Court last month when Mr Justice Raymond Sears ruled the Government had abused its power. The Government promised in 1961 that residents could stay in the area indefinitely.

Mr Justice Sears ruled that residents who had been there since 1961 could be entitled to damages, the amount of which is to be negotiated.

Anti-Clearance Association secretary James Wong Ming accused the Housing Department of ignoring the court order by refusing to settle a new compensation package.

He said the group demanded a free government apartment and at least $1.5 million cash compensation for each family.

Squatter Lee Tat-sun, 78, said he would not lie down.

'We are well-prepared to fight. Let's see what the Government can do to us,' he declared.

Angry squatters hurled abuse at workers and wielded sticks to fight off officers during an operation to serve closure notices to 70 families earlier this year. The operation degenerated into scuffles and was aborted.