Widow upset after developer moves in

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 December, 2010, 12:00am

The resumption of farmland in a Fanling village has sparked a fresh dispute between Henderson Land and villagers, who accuse the developer of removing their belongings without giving notice.

Widow Yeung Wo-kim was shocked to see strangers removing the belongings of her late husband from their house in Ma Shi Po village one afternoon earlier this month.

Yeung, 79, is one of two tenants who complained that their homes were cleared by workers sent by Henderson Land on December 9. The developer has been buying up Fanling farmland since 2005.

In October, the developer issued eviction notices to about 150 Ma Shi Po village households, many of whom are tenant farmers who have lived there for more than 40 years.

Yeung said yesterday the workers had damaged her late husband's personal belongings, such as his clothes and farming tools. She said the items had strong sentimental value and money could not compensate her.

'The bed which my late husband slept in for decades was wrecked,' she said.

Yeung is seeking compensation for fertiliser thrown away by the workers and damage to the house, which she put at HK$3,000.

She also insisted that her husband, Tse Ling-shing, who was illiterate, had never signed a paper to surrender the tenancy of the land.

But Henderson insisted the landlord had given it a paper signed by Yeung's late husband agreeing to move out.

Yeung's daughter-in-law, Florence Tse Kwan-pui, said they might take the dispute over the genuineness of the signature of her father-in-law to court. Tse died in 2008.

'My father-in-law was illiterate, but the paper showed a signature for Tse. We are sceptical about the genuineness of the signature,' she said.

'My mother-in-law lives in a nearby home for the elderly and was suddenly told by her neighbour about the clearance that night. It took her by surprise. She rushed to her house and was shocked to see the workers removing stuff. You could imagine how shocking it was to an elderly woman. The developer should have informed her personally beforehand.'

Victor Wong Wing-cheung, assistant property manager of Henderson, met affected tenants at the site yesterday.

He said the complaints were isolated since the developer had posted warnings on village noticeboards before clearing the houses.

But Wong admitted the company had not posted the notices on individual houses. He said Henderson was willing to compensate the two tenants after they verified their losses.

'Our understanding is that those houses were supposed to be vacant. We didn't know that the tenants would come back. This is beyond our control,' he said.

But Yeung said she and many of her fellow villagers could not read.

Yeung and her husband had not lived on the plot since buying a flat elsewhere in the 1980s. But they had built the small house on the land in 1990 to store their tools and rest there while working, she said.

Another tenant who said her house had been cleared is Madam Shing Ching. She put her losses at more than HK$10,000, including cash, a digital camera, a silver necklace and an electronic dictionary.

But Henderson insisted her estranged husband, who was the tenant, had signed a surrender document.

During the meeting between Henderson and the tenants, a group of villagers protested against the resumption of their farmland.