Villagers concede defeat and reluctantly walk away from their Tuen Mun homes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 September, 2010, 12:00am

After a six-month battle, a Tuen Mun village has finally been vacated by residents to make way for a public housing estate.

About 80 villagers had vowed to 'defend our homes to the death' on Monday, as the deadline for a government clearance order passed.

But the contingent of 100 police officers and Lands Department workers met little resistance as they moved in to clear the 72 remaining households in Tsz Tin Tsuen.

The eviction resumed after a court on Friday dismissed judicial review applications from six residents to stop the demolition.

It was a tense start. As police and lands workers approached their home shortly before 9am, the Ho family put three gas cylinders in their path, threatening to ignite them.

After a two-hour standoff at the family's 2,000 square foot home - which they had lived in for more than 40 years - the 12 residents reluctantly agreed to leave. 'We are very upset about the compensation. In fact, we haven't received a single penny,' a teary Ho yin-fan said. Since they were tenants, the family will be moved to public housing and is not entitled to compensation for the land or house.

Win Win Chow, who had lived in a 1,000 square foot home in the village for 40 years, also gave in - along with her family of 10 - after pleading with officers for two hours seeking more time to pack. 'We only got HK$1.2 million. It's a very tiny sum,' she said.

The patriarch of the family died in 2007, shortly after the government announced the eviction. 'He said at the time that we could never sell this home and that we should all live here,' his wife, who declined to be named, said. At one stage during the six-month battle she had threatened to burn 100 shirts that had belonged to her husband, who had owned a textile business. Finally, yesterday, after two hours of negotiation, she left the house, clutching a portrait of her husband to her chest.

Christopher Wong Wai-hing, who on Monday was rallying the remaining villagers to resist the eviction, said they had decided at the last minute to leave peacefully. 'We don't want to see anyone get hurt,' he said.

'We are very disappointed by the judicial review ruling. It failed to look at the matter from a human point of view. Now, we don't have time to appeal the case. So there's nothing we can do but accept our fate.'

Eviction of the village to make way for a public housing development of 5,000 apartments - due for completion by 2016 - was halted on August 3 and again on September 9 because of strong resistance from the villagers.

They demanded more compensation and more time. But the government ruled out further compensation or delay as the project was already behind schedule.

'Any householders who had difficulty moving out will be given access to the site to clear their belongings in the next couple of days,' a government spokesman said. All the villagers had left their homes by 5pm. But some were worried about their pets, which cannot be kept in public housing. 'We will try to make arrangements [for villagers' pets] with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department,' a housing department spokesman said.