Forty families face eviction from mosque

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 August, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 August, 1996, 12:00am
 

Trustees of the Jamia Mosque in Mid-Levels are preparing to evict about 40 families who have lived on mosque land rent-free for decades.


The Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund, who took over the management of the Mosque Street landmark in 1991, have adopted a hardline position against the squatters after receiving approval from the Buildings and Lands departments to build a $200 million cultural centre at the mosque.


The plan calls for the demolition of a four-storey residential building and illegal structures. The mosque, built in 1849, will be preserved.


The trustees have refused to compensate or help resettle the families, totalling more than 150 people.


Chairman Ka Hanafi said the trust fund had neither the power nor obligation to negotiate with the squatters as they had no right to live there.


But the squatters have vowed to stay on.


Mrs H. Khan, who declined to give her full name, has lived for eight years in a tin hut by the mosque, with her four children aged five months to seven years and her Pakistani husband.


'Without compensation, we will be left homeless because we have no money to move to another place.' Ho Gu, 69, a Macau-Chinese, who moved to the mosque after marrying her late Pakistani husband more than 20 years ago, said: 'I do not have many years left. Why not let me stay?' Property lawyer William Lo Wai-shing said it would not be easy to evict the squatters because of their long residency. It made their stay on the 46,000 square metre piece of mosque land a tacit agreement between them and their landlord.


But the residents had failed to form a group to fight eviction, and so had weakened their legal position.


Many of the families had originally stayed at the mosque under the Islamic custom of hospitality after coming from India in the late 1940s and from Pakistan in the 1960s.


The centre, which will have a home for the aged, a kindergarten and a sport complex, could house some of the elderly squatters.


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