Shopkeepers use acid threat to fight eviction
By NG KANG-CHUNG
SHOPKEEPERS last night threatened to use cyanide and acid to fight next week's clearance of their To Kwa Wan shops.
The threat of ''chemical warfare'' came after an ultimatum to the Government, allowing it until next Wednesday to agree to offer compensation to owners of illegally-built shops and make public its formula for determining payments.
Failure to satisfy the demands would result in chemical warfare, warned the shopkeepers, angered by the Government's firm stance at a four-hour marathon meeting with Acting Secretary for Planning, Environment, and Lands Canice Mak Chun-fong.
Forty petitioners staged a rally outside Mr Mak's branch as United Democrat legislator Lau Chin-shek led 12 representatives in an urgent meeting with Mr Mak.
The Lands Department issued eviction warnings last Wednesday after the clearance had been delayed for 11/2 years by compensation rows.
The Department will decide on an eviction plan after assessing the situation early next week.
A department spokesman cited latest figures that only 30 shopkeepers out of 1,500 households had not yet settled the offers with the Government; but 78 operators still refused to move.
Some of them wanted a free flat in the urban area as well.
A shopkeepers' representative Tsui Chor-yat, who expressed extreme disappointment with the outcomes of yesterday's meeting, said: ''We have bulk storage of cyanide and poison at the metal-shops and garages.
''We shall resort to chemical weapons to fight the police.'' Mr Tsui said owners of stalls under staircases should have the same status as ordinary operators and should be paid more cash.
The Lands Department has said the shops are illegal and the owners are only eligible for ex gratia removal grants.
But Mr Tsui argued that most of them had operated there for more than 10 years and they paid rates and business licence fees.
He also said they would support those who had received compensation to re-open talks with the Government for more money.
Mr Mak said he agreed to give the operators a written reply on Monday.
He told operators they could still appeal for more money after they had moved out and there was no need to resist clearance.