Rough justice for street sleepers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2012, 12:00am


Street sleepers have accused the government of confiscating all they own without warning, leaving them to fend for themselves on cold nights without even a change of clothes.

The street sleepers and their supporters gathered at the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department's offices in Sham Shui Po yesterday to demand for the return of their belongings confiscated in a surprise raid last week.

Some said they came back from work to find everything gone - from blankets and clothes to their bankbooks and money hidden in their mattresses.

Cheung Muk-lam, who has been living on the streets of Sham Shui Po for 30 years, said this had never happened to him before.

'A policeman kicked my mattress and told me to wake up and to leave,' he said.

The surprise raid by police and officers from the Food and Environmental department and Home Affairs Department happened at 2pm. Cheung said he watched as officers put all his personal belongings in a van. When he tried to grab his mattress, the policemen stopped him.

'I wanted to grab a pair of shoes and maybe a change of clothes, but I was told that I wasn't allowed to do that,' Cheung said.

Another street sleeper, Li Tim-choi, 64, lost a new gas stove worth hundreds of dollars, together with his clothes and shoes.

'I came back and found everything gone. Luckily, some of the people who live nearby saw what happened and gave us blankets and clothes,' he said.

The government is supposed to send out notification of a raid four hours beforehand. Li said that normally officials would come by with posters to inform them, but they didn't warn them this time.

'To take away the little that they had is inhumane - how could you? They aren't in the way and they don't block up passageways,' an outraged supporter said. She said she had lived in the neighbourhood for a long time and had never seen the street dwellers cause any trouble.

A department spokesman said street clearances were co-ordinated by the Home Affairs Department. He said the FEHD was only in charge of cleaning and sweeping the streets. The Home Affairs Department has yet to reply the Post's inquiries.