Repairman guilty in To Kwa Wan collapse

Unregistered tradesman breached regulations when he chiselled a column and platform at a tenement that crumbled in 2010, killing four

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 5:35am

A 77-year-old repairman was yesterday found to have breached building regulations for work he did at a To Kwa Wan tenement which collapsed in January 2010, killing four people.

Chu Wai-wing faced a summons under the Buildings Ordinance accusing him of carrying out work likely to cause injury to people and damage to property. He was found to be in breach at Kowloon City Court following a trial. He had pleaded not guilty.

Magistrate Abu Bakar bin Wahab said Chu had, without using supports, chiselled a column and platform in the building, which posed the risk of injury or damage to property. He said Chu was not a registered contractor at the time. The building was over 50 years old and shaking caused by the work posed a danger, he said.

Chu now faces up to three years' jail and a HK$1 million fine. The magistrate adjourned Chu's case to March 6 for sentencing.

Chu is the only person who has faced criminal prosecution over the collapse. The Coroner's Court ruled in 2011 that the deaths had been accidental. The coroner had said no one should be held criminally responsible, though this did not mean government surveyors were not at fault. After the verdict, Chu denied he had carried out work on the column or platform, or that he had instructed any of his workers to do so. Asked whether he was worried about the sentencing, he said: "There's nothing I can do."

The court heard during the trial that Chu had been hired by the tenement's owner, Chak Oi-luen, to do repairs on the 55-year-old block since 2005. Chu said on Monday, ahead of the verdict, that he had not been working since the tragedy, and had to rely on government financial aid.

I'm not able to work now. I can't even stand firm or squat. How can I work?

Living with his wife in a flat in Choi Wan Estate, Wong Tai Sin, Chu, who has diabetes and high blood pressure, said he had a stroke in June that left him unable to control his right leg and made it hard to walk.

"I'm not able to work now. I can't even stand firm or squat. How can I work?" he said.

"I was asked why I had to work as a man in my 70s. I said there would be no one supporting us [he and his wife] if I stopped working. And they later helped me apply for the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance."

He said the prosecution's description to the court about what he did before the tragedy was "nonsense" and a "fabrication".

Lee Siu-mui, a former resident of the collapsed building, said it was unfair to place all the blame on Chu, but she agreed he was partly responsible. "The Buildings Department should also be responsible," she said.

Kowloon City district councillor Pius Yum Kwok-tung said, on behalf of relatives of the victims and others affected by the tragedy, that they were disappointed with the ruling, and the department should take responsibility.