PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 April, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 April, 2004, 12:00am

Q Does Man Mo Temple need revitalisation?

Having read your article 'A new image for Man Mo Temple' published on Tuesday, the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals would like to point out that the management of the Man Mo Temple was formally entrusted to it with the enactment of the Man Mo Temple Ordinance in 1908, as opposed to it having been purchased from the then Qing government in 1876. Since the establishment of the Tung Wah Hospital in 1870, its directors actively participated in managing the temple with the kaifongs, or community leaders. For nearly a century, we have made efforts to retain the temple's original looks and the relics that came with it.

Tung Wah evolved from a small hospital in Sheung Wan to the largest charitable organisation in Hong Kong today. Having roots in the area, we are naturally concerned about the development of the Central and Western district.

We are fully aware of the recent Sheung Wan revitalisation plan proposed by the Urban Renewal Authority. Should there be an opportunity for us to get involved, we would consider participating. Up till now, there have not been any plans to change the outlook and operation mode of the temple.

Stella See, administration secretary, Tung Wah Group of Hospitals

Q Should the URA cut payments to poor tenants?

I would like to provide a full picture of the tenant compensation issue for your readers.

The existing statutory compensation (for tenants forced to move out of flats that are to be redeveloped) was raised from 1.7 times the rateable (annual rentable) value to the current 'seven, five, three, one formula' in 1996, mainly because of the then skyrocketing rents and a lack of public housing.

Put simply, the formula means that, for a flat of say $70,000 annual rateable value, the tenants gets seven times the first $30,000, five times the second $30,000 and three times the remaining $10,000, and so on.

This applies to all domestic tenants in Hong Kong and not just those in Urban Renewal Authority projects.

The property market has gone through enormous change since the end of 1997. The government's overall rental index for small flats had plunged 47.4 per cent by February this year.

Vacant flats for rent are abundant on the market. Waiting time for public housing has been shortened to three years or less - hence the government's current proposal to deregulate by removing the statutory compensation.

Despite the deregulation, the URA reckons there is a need to retain a major part of the compensation exclusively for those affected by its redevelopment projects. However, due to the high statutory compensation at present, only about a quarter of the affected tenants would opt for our offer of public housing units (mostly located within the urban area).

Most would take the cash option and some would move to poor-quality, but low-rental accommodation, which defeats the purpose of trying to improve their quality of life.

In fact, only about 300 of our 2,000 housing units available per year have been taken up. We have listened to the views of legislators, social workers and tenant groups and come up with a three-point proposal for ex gratia compensation. First, the rehousing option will be retained as a primary means of living-quality improvement.

Second, particularly poor families living in cubicles and bed spaces will continue to receive the present minimum cash payments of $80,000 and $70,000 respectively. (This normally amounts to more than six years of rent in places like Shamshuipo.)

These two options will, in our experience, cater for more than half of the affected tenants who are obviously also the most needy people.

For the remainder, the third option is a cash offer of 3.5 times the rateable value, roughly about 42 months' rent.

Again by experience, the average rateable value of domestic flats affected by our projects is $45,000, which means a compensation of $157,500.

The proposed 3.5 times rateable value is, of course, a reduction from the current average of about six times, resulting from the existing formula.

But, in all fairness, 42 months' rent compensation for our tenants is quite substantial compared to all tenants in Hong Kong, who will get nil if the new law is passed.

More importantly, this will narrow the gap between the rehousing and cash options so that more of the tenants who are eligible for public housing will choose the rehousing option.

Eddie So, external relations general manager, URA

On other matters ...

I am writing about the mobile phone that exploded. The injured man mentioned that his phone was bought from Apliu Street, which is famous for its second-hand electronics market. The prices are attractive and goods on offer are popular. But are they safe?

The Consumer Council should investigate the incident and the Apliu Street market to see how consumers can be better protected in future.

Name and address supplied

I am writing regarding last Thursday's article 'Restaurant closes for second time owing pay'. Sun Hei Restaurant obviously went out of business because it was not smoke-free.

If it had been, it would have attracted the 85 per cent of the people who don't smoke and it would still be in business.

Annelise Connell, Mid-Levels