Kwun Tong renewal plan hits squatter trouble

Doubled compensation fails to budge three Kwun Tong shopkeepers who face eviction

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 5:12am

Three shopkeepers at the core of the Kwun Tong redevelopment area snubbed a doubled compensation offer from the Urban Renewal Authority yesterday and now face possible eviction by the end of the year.

The authority said 25 of 28 squatters running businesses on government land in Yan Shun Lane had agreed to accept the new offer of HK$109,240 by the deadline yesterday.

I will need a licence to continue my business even though I have successfully bid for a stall at the bird garden in Mong Kok
Pigeon seller Leung Kam-hung

But a barber in his 80s, a hawker renting storage space and a seller of cow's organs were holding out. A fourth trader, a pigeon seller, said last night he was having second thoughts about the offer, which he earlier said he would accept.

The compensation, decided on at a board meeting of the authority in July, is equal to two years' rent on the highest-priced stall, double the one-year rent previously proposed. The authority has said the offer will not set a precedent and last night insisted it would go no higher.

"For those who are staying, we won't increase the compensation any more," Kwun Tong project director Ernest Lee Shu-wing said, giving an ultimatum for the holdouts to quit.

Lee said the shops in the second phase area of the five-phase project that will provide 1,700 flats by 2018 were a special case because the squatters were on government land and there had been no action on them in more than 30 years.

Shopkeepers in the lane say the cluster was formed in the 1960s and '70s, when hawkers dotted the streets of Hong Kong.

Some vendors escaped the government's crackdown on hawkers and built makeshift shops in the back alley where they still operate.

"I will need a licence to continue my business even though I have successfully bid for a stall at the bird garden in Mong Kok," lamented pigeon seller Leung Kam-hung, who said he might now refuse to leave.

Hawker Chan Chi-yung, who rents storage space, reckoned the authority had compromised.

"But I won't leave until all cases are settled," he said. "I have promised them to stay."

The authority said it would consider offering more help to the barber, Lai Chun-mui, including identifying a museum to take his old salon equipment.

Apart from the three shop operators, nine residents living in squatter huts are also staying, some of whom could be allocated public flats.