We are left to rot, say squatters
BILLY WONG WAI-YUK
Elderly residents living in remote squatter areas claim the Government has left them to rot.
More than 60 residents from a dozen squatter areas across New Territories North, some of them over 80, protested outside the Legislative Council building yesterday before councillors gathered for a welfare services panel meeting.
They said they had been plagued by floods, lived next to fly-infested dumping grounds and were cut off from the outside world.
Under the Neighbourhood Level Community Development Project, welfare teams are sent to remote areas lacking social services if they have a population between 3,000 and 15,000.
Housing Authority figures show there are 210,000 people living in squatter huts. But many remote squatter areas do not benefit from the project because they are too small.
'We are fed up with the monthly or seasonal visits paid by the Social Welfare Department. It is just a show. What we need is a permanent team in our neighbourhood,' said Yeung Sau-ling, 40, who was born in Ping Kong Tsuen, Sheung Shui.
Chan Mui, 80, who has lived in Ping Kong Tsuen for more than 50 years, said she had hardly left her hut in recent years because there was no public transport.
'I give money to my neighbours to buy food for me,' she said. 'If I walk, it will take me more than 40 minutes over a rough road to the nearest market.' Madam Chan reared pigs with her husband and five children when she moved there. There was no running water and no electricity.
Street lamps were installed at the village entrance a few years ago but they do not cover huts further back.
'My children have all moved out because they have to work,' said Madam Chan, who is now a widow. 'There is no clinic around. Everything is so far away.' A Social Welfare Department spokesman said rules had to apply when considering setting up welfare teams because of limited resources.
She called on the remote squatter hut residents to contact the regional office of the Social Welfare Department in urgent cases of need.