Riot squad retreats as squatter row intensifies

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 August, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 1996, 12:00am

Riot police were forced to retreat yesterday as diehard Rennie's Mill squatters threatened to stab themselves over plans to clear them.

Demolition workers were forced to abort the eviction after an eight-hour standoff with squatter Lydia Yeung Lee Yue-lam.

Mrs Yeung, 50, is among the five remaining households who have so far refused to accept Government offers.

An ultimatum reached them yesterday, ordering them to go by today or face forcible removal.

Assistant Director of Housing Lau Kai-hung said officers would evict those refusing to co-operate and no concession would be made.

Four hundred demolition workers, escorted by 230 riot police, had been ordered to clear 29 of the 57 remaining families still staying put on the 53-hectare slum area yesterday.

Most had vacated their huts before yesterday's deadline, leaving three diehard cases to be dealt with by officials.

Tension rose to the brink of violence after a meeting between Mr Lau and Mrs Yeung collapsed within 45 minutes.

An angry Mrs Yeung roared at Mr Lau after stepping out the meeting room: 'You robbers want to take away my home. I shall kill myself in front of you.' She painted a protest banner outside her hut with lipstick and red nail polish and claimed she would kill herself if workers went to demolish her 80-square-metre brick house.

The Yeungs locked themselves in their house last night.

Mrs Yeung has been living with her husband and two sons in Rennie's Mill for about 40 years. The family has been offered a public rental unit but wants an extra one.

The department says the family has a property elsewhere and the offer is the best it can provide.

Mrs Yeung said: 'Owning a private unit is not a sin. If the Government wants to take away my home, it has to satisfy my demand.

'We shall use blood to protect our home.' Mr Lau said later: 'We are trying to be reasonable and violence is the last thing we want to see. We only want to allow the family one more night to think over our offers. But we can't wait any longer.' Mr Lau described the operation as smooth and said they would go ahead to clear another 28 families today.

Among those cleared will be Lau Ko Tsang-kwan, who lives in the Po In Temple.

Her son, Lau Kin-kwok, jumped into a crowd of police officers when they clashed with angry squatters at Rennie's Mill last month.