Florist in land row loses her shop

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 September, 2009, 12:00am

A flower shop in Graham Street was demolished yesterday, but the tenant will not receive any compensation because she had been unaware that she was paying rent for a piece of illegally occupied government land.

The flower shop, on the footpath next to the Wing Woo grocery shop at the intersection of Graham and Wellington streets, had its last morning of business before it was dismantled in a joint operation by the Buildings Department, Lands Department, and Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

A Lands Department spokeswoman said it did not plan to follow up on who charged the shop owner rent illegally because it was a 'personal dispute'. Under the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance, there was nothing the department could do in such a scenario, she said.

Tenant May Ng, in her 40s, said she had not known the shop was on government land until Urban Renewal Authority staff told her in May last year that she was not eligible for redevelopment compensation.

Because of her illegal occupation of government land, the Lands Department told Ng early last month that if she did not close the shop by last Friday the department would demolish it on September 28.

Ng, the breadwinner of her family, tried defending her shop yesterday before yielding to government officers in the afternoon. Stock was left outside the closed door of the grocery shop, in the rain.

'The government departments do not show any sympathy,' Ng said. 'They didn't give me enough time. It's impossible for me to find a place to move into in just a month.'

She opened the store in September 2006 and said she had paid more than HK$100,000 rent to a middleman - a vegetable hawker who worked opposite her. After noticing she was not paying the legitimate landowner, Ng stopped handing over the rent.

It remains unclear whether the Wing Woo shop, which operated for more than 80 years before it closed in January, had any part in the row. The grocery store's owner, Kwan Moon-chiu, refused to tell the Urban Renewal Authority whether it had accepted any of the rent.

Ng said she would like to claim her rent back through the courts, but that she lacked legal knowledge. She said she would move the remaining stock, mainly orchids and pots, to a field in Tuen Mun. But she had yet to find a place to reopen her shop.

An authority spokesman said it was not in a position to take any action because the shop was on government land and was not within its redevelopment area.