Factory owners win reprieve
A GROUP of Tsuen Wan factory owners fighting government eviction were yesterday given an 11th-hour reprieve after the Chief Secretary for Administration stepped into the dispute.
A high-level government taskforce will be set up to hear the grievance of the operators, who have also been promised that compensation will be paid in seven days instead of the normal 30 days.
The backdown came after a special Legislative Council meeting yesterday to deal with the land resumption row over the Wah Kai Industrial Centre.
The site is to be cleared for the West Rail project. But lingering compensation disputes have held up the clearance and the deadline has been pushed back at least twice. The last deadline was June 5.
The factory owners have accused the Government of delaying paying their compensation, while a number also want more money. Up to yesterday, 87 per cent of compensation cases had been settled.
Democrat Albert Chan Wai-yip, who led the operators to petition Chief Secretary for Administration Anson Chan Fang On-sang last week, said they would not move out until cash was paid.
In a written reply, Mrs Chan promised to treat their cases in a flexible manner and that 'positive measures' would be considered to speed up procedures. She also promised to offer loans to affected operators.
Deputy Secretary for Planning and Lands Patrick Lau Lai-chiu said yesterday a working group would examine individual cases.
'Affected factory owners will be invited to discuss their cases,' he said. 'And special treatment will be given to ensure owners are paid compensation in seven days. It would have taken 30 days under the normal procedure.' A government spokesman would not comment on whether the clearance would go ahead or be held up for the moment, only saying the Government hoped to resolve the dispute as soon as possible.
The KCRC has warned that the West Rail project could face delay if the building was not cleared in time for drilling work on the Tsing Tsuen Tunnel. Work has been halted since last month.
The railway is scheduled for completion by 2004.