Minority property owners face harassment and intimidation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 November, 2010, 12:00am

There is a general perception that property developers are sharks.

Regarding the amendments to the Land (Compulsory Sales for Redevelopment) Ordinance passed in April, Albert Cheng King-hon wrote a well-considered article ('Don't short-change shop owners in urban renewal', October 27).

However, in his column ('Developing farce', October 30) he has wrongly concluded that it is safe to go back into the water. Just because the noodle shop in Sham Shui Po was a false alarm, as the building was not yet 50 years old, it does not mean that all is well. On the contrary, the owners went through a nightmare.

The 80 per cent [ownership of a building] threshold creates a great incentive for developers to deliberately encourage a building to become dilapidated.

Since the developer's acquisition of all the residential units above, the ground-floor noodle business has experienced water seepage nuisance affecting its operation.

The developer started the compulsory sale application process, including the sampling of concrete, and the threat of litigation through the Land Tribunal became a real possibility. The owners only wish to conduct their small business without such overbearing interference from a large developer.

In 14 years' time it is inevitable that the threat of a compulsory sale will raise its ugly head again and that this small traditional business will then be forced out. Where can they go? They will not be able to afford to stay in the vicinity where they have successfully established long-term customer goodwill.

This case exposes the lack of support and expert advice available to affected minority owners. However, it is apparent that the government and lawmakers do not fully understand the requirements of the updated ordinance. There is an obvious role for the Development Bureau.

In other cases, owners have been misled and harassed in the acquisition process. Intimidation tactics have been employed such as disconnected utility services, padlocked doors and late-night nuisance phone calls. It is nonsense to suggest that minority owners have been given 'more bargaining power'.

The government's unfair attitude is that minority owners' property rights can be sacrificed as long as the redevelopment cycle is accelerated. As a consequence, small, traditional enterprises are being driven to the wall and homes confiscated.

Lam Woon-kwong has drawn attention to a 'general deterioration of governmental standards' ('Ex-civil service chief attacks 'lack of vision'', October 25) and the alarming indifference to the less well-off members of the community raises serious questions about the ethics of the Development Bureau.

Wong Ho-yin, Minority Owners' Alliance Against Compulsory Sales