Bulldozed: Abalone farm that got in way
A Hong Kong businessman has filed a lawsuit against a developer and a county government in Guangdong claiming an army of workers and bulldozers forcibly entered his massive abalone farm and destroyed it.
Yip Wah-ching says his farm in Raoping county, Chaozhou, about 400 kilometres east of Hong Kong, is now being turned into a cargo port, leaving him 80 million yuan (HK$98 million) out of pocket, according to the suit, filed with the Intermediate People's Court in Chaozhou on April 11.
Yip claims the eviction and demolition, which came amid an unresolved dispute over how he should be compensated and relocated, was a blatant violation of national laws.
Yip, who also holds a British passport, had been registering the developments with the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong since June last year and now plans to seek help from the British consulates in Hong Kong and Guangzhou to follow up the case.
Yip said he started the abalone farm in the mid-1990s and invested hundreds of millions of yuan over the years in producing the delicacy, a type of marine mollusc.
He entered into two separate agreements with the Zhelin town government in Raoping to occupy two sites for 20 years from 1997 and 2007.
He claims the farm, at roughly 70,000 square metres - as big as the exhibition space at AsiaWorld-Expo - had been one of the biggest ventures of its kind on the mainland and its abalone could be found on the menu of restaurants in major cities throughout China.
However, in 2009, the county announced a land resumption plan for port development, and in January last year the provincial government endorsed the plan.
In September, the county authorities issued an ultimatum to the farm to vacate the site, though no agreement on compensation had been reached.
Meanwhile, the farm had been forced to stop operating after its seawater supply was cut off back in February last year.
Yip said the county authorities, after initially ignoring his request for compensation, late last year offered 10 million yuan for the depreciated property and assets of the farm.
That amount, Yip said, was far less than the 200 million yuan compensation he sought - already reduced from the 770 million yuan he had originally demanded - for past investments, lost business and relocation and other expenses.
'We have been operating there for 15 years but were eliminated in just one day,' he said.
'I wonder how investments and private assets on the mainland can be properly protected if such violence and disregard of the law can be tolerated.'
Yip, who is the former village representative of Lin Ma Hang in the New Territories, said the whole process was so ugly he had to publicise it as a warning to overseas investors.
He accused local officials of colluding with the port developer as the public security bureau turned a blind eye to the illegal eviction.
Yip said he had engaged a Shanghai financial consultant to list his farm on the Hong Kong stock exchange this year.
A spokesman for the Chaozhou city government said it was not aware of Yip's claims and would not comment on individual cases.
The Raoping county government could not be reached for comment, and a spokesman for Zhelin town government did not return calls.
But an assistant to the spokesman for Zhelin said in a text message: 'We are unable to release any information on the subject matter at this stage ... We'll take the matter to county government before making a decision.'
The number of years left before abalone in the wild is set to become extinct at current rates of carbon dioxide production
The estimated amount in tonnes of illegally caught abalone in 2008. Another 10,000 tonnes was caught legally and 30,000 tonnes was farmed