The Buildings Department has won a six-month legal battle for a demolition order against a decades-old illegal neighbourhood in a To Kwa Wan alley.
Ruling in favour of the government, District Court Judge Michael Wong Yat-ming asked the Department of Justice to communicate with other departments to help secure the smooth resettlement of a dozen residents of the tin-roofed structures, some of them a half-century old.
But Wong dismissed the department's application for the residents to bear the government's legal costs.
Nine residents appearing as litigants yesterday expressed worries about finding other homes which they said they almost certainly could not afford.
"I'm illiterate," Ho Man-yuen told the court. "When I saw a notice put up there, I thought it was telling me to go get my old-age allowance."
Speaking outside court, tenant Ho Kam-hong said he was disappointed.
"Some social workers previously suggested that we move to halfway houses for three months to prove that we are homeless. Does that make sense at all?"
The judgment did not deal directly with their questions as to why the government had not considered their future housing needs. "Resettlement would be an administrative question, and not an issue this court can handle at this moment," Wong said. "However sympathetic I may be, this court cannot instruct other government departments on what to do."
He said a demolition order had been duly issued for the structures alongside Kiu Yu and Kiu Fai mansions in Lok Shan Road and the court accepted it had "no discretionary power whatsoever" to invalidate it.
"To demolish the illegal structures is not only crucial in guaranteeing public safety, it is also paramount in yours," Wong told the residents. "If there's a fire, almost certainly you will be the first to suffer."