Furious 140 stay put as Pillar Point closes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 June, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 June, 2000, 12:00am

Nearly 140 Vietnamese residents were still refusing to leave the Pillar Point camp yesterday, despite its official closure at midnight on Wednesday. They demanded that Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa offer them better housing.

Holding banners and shouting slogans, 80 inmates, including children and pregnant women, held a six-hour sit-in outside the Central Government Offices. Police were placed on high alert during the demonstration, with more than 30 officers, including some from the Police Tactical Unit, deployed.

Railings were erected around the government headquarters and officers had shields at the ready. The Vietnamese said the $3,000 housing subsidy the Government had offered was insufficient.

Father of two Ah Lung, 29, who has lived in the open camp for 10 years, said: 'It is not enough, and I don't have any savings. I haven't had a job for a long time. We are going to be homeless.' He was also furious that after the Civil Aid Service took over the camp from Caritas Hong Kong on Wednesday night, residents were no longer allowed to come and go freely. 'They would not let us go out last night,' he said. 'My children were hungry, but I couldn't buy them any food. It's like being in a prison.' Another protester, Fan Chun-keung, 34, said they would be forced to sleep in the streets if the Government refused to help. 'The Government wants to kick us out but doesn't give us a place to live,' he said. Mr Fan accused the administration of inhumanity and negligence. 'There's no human rights, no group supporting us. We just want a place to live, even if it is a small one,' he added.

The group returned to Pillar Point peacefully about 4pm.

Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee refused to rule out the possibility of using force against those who insisted on staying. 'We will always try to use minimum force and we urge these people to be rational.' She said that so far, 137 had refused to leave, claiming they could not find regular work and the government assistance was insufficient to find a flat.

'Of the remaining 137 refugees, most are single people, aged between 18 and 50, able-bodied and more than capable of looking after themselves,' Mrs Ip said. 'Though they would encounter some difficulties, the difficulties would not be different to the ones faced by many other Hong Kong people.' She said no date had been set for removal of the refugees.