Tenant vows to stay in Chai Wan factory despite deadline to move out

74-year-old, who has lived in Chai Wan factory for 51 years, says he needs a better offer to find a new home before the block is converted into flats

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 September, 2012, 3:11am


A tenant of a 53-year-old factory block that is being converted into flats says he will ignore tomorrow's deadline to move out.

Tong Kwok-cheung, 74, moved into the Chai Wan Factory Estate in 1961 with his father, who started the paper-lantern business in Sai Wan Ho and ran it there until the site was resumed by the government for development. He now lives in the building surrounded by the relics of his family's long-closed business.

Tong is refusing to budge unless he gets enough money to find a new home.

The estate, the last of 22 resettlement factory blocks built to house small industries cleared from squatter areas after the Shek Kip Mei fire of 1953, is to be converted into public rental flats.

"We surrendered our old place on condition that we were resettled. Now the government must give me another resettlement flat," Tong said.

The H-shaped factory block has been earmarked for conversion into a public rental housing block with 180 flats as a short-term measure to ease the housing shortage.

Tong and another tenant are the only ones yet to reach an agreement with the Housing Authority to move out. He has refused a cash offer worth about HK$190,000 from the Housing Authority, which also suggested he make a bid for a home in its factory estate block in Tuen Mun. He demanded HK$800,000.

"I will stay on even when the last day comes," he said.

Tong's South China & Co, which used to sell its decorative lanterns to local and overseas companies, closed in the 1980s in the face of competition from the newly opened mainland, as did many other businesses.

But he stayed on in the building even though people were not supposed to live there.

Chau Kwok-kin, former chairman of a mutual aid committee of tenants, who was among the first to move in, said he would miss the place. "This is a friendly design. We can see each other in the open corridors and talk to each other. It's also very well ventilated, compared to private industrial blocks that look like a big box with no natural lighting," Chau said.

He makes parts for electric fans and has been able to stay in business because a client who had moved operations to the mainland still ordered from him. "But not many are as lucky as me. There were many fan-parts makers here but I just saw them close down one by one in the past 30 years. It's sad to see our economy taken over by finance and real estate, and nothing else."