Pigeons not coming home to roost as Hong Kong shop faces eviction

Shop selling birds won't be allowed to keep them on premises after forced move from Kwun Tong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 September, 2013, 5:23pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 October, 2013, 9:50am

The fate of 80 racing pigeons is up in the air as a decades-old shop faces eviction to make way for the Urban Renewal Authority's redevelopment of Kwun Tong.

The pigeons are now displayed for sale at the Kok Chai Bird Shop, one of 29 businesses operating on government land along Yan Shun Lane.

Because of hygiene and bird-flu concerns, the shop did not get a new licence from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to sell live pigeons in Mong Kok where it would be relocated, owner Eric Leung Kam-hung said.

At the new shop in Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, he would only be allowed to sell feed and cages and display photos of his pigeons for sale, he said.

"I'm not sure how I can cover the much higher rent by showing people photos of racing pigeons instead of selling them directly," a visibly distressed Leung said.

He said he would be forced to give the birds away, mark them down for sale, or hand them over to the authorities to cull.

The renewal authority's "merciless takeovers" of shop space in the alley yesterday - the deadline for operators to clear out - prompted a dozen shopkeepers and residents to march in protest to its Kwun Tong office.

They demanded more time and better relocation arrangements for traders making way for the authority's largest venture to date - a 5.3-hectare Kwun Tong town centre.

An authority spokesman said it would follow "proper procedures". He said 25 out of 29 area occupants had agreed on yesterday's deadline to clear out.

Many agreed to move only after the renewal authority agreed to subsidise them via units at markets managed by the hygiene department.

Leung had to surrender his 35-year-old store, the last racing-pigeon shop in Hong Kong, by the end of the day or be evicted forcibly at any moment.

He said he was paid the standard HK$109,240 compensation, but blamed poor co-ordination between the two government bodies for his dilemma over the offer of the new store.

"Money is not what I want. I just want to be able to operate my business and maintain my livelihood. I have three children to take care of; the youngest isn't even one year old yet."

Wong Mei-ling, who sells hand-knitted garments, said the Urban Renewal Authority had turned down her pleas for more time to move to her new space - an isolated corner shop in a market that is 80 per cent smaller than her current premises.

Wong said she expected a 60 per cent drop in walk-in clients.

"I told them it would be impossible to move by September 30 and they said no problem, they would help only after I signed the contract and accepted the money first," she said. "I was stupid enough to believe them. They are very merciless."