Crackdown on Hong Kong illegal housing at Kwai Chung factory prompts protest from residents
Incident is latest in wave of discontent; authorities accused of not providing adequate arrangements
A dozen families living in subdivided flats inside a factory building in Kwai Chung staged a protest on Friday, saying that they would be homeless if evicted in the latest government crackdown on illegal use of industrial buildings.
The 12 households, all living in flats of about 80 sq ft, urged the Buildings Department to find them new accommodation before ordering the landlord to clear the rooms.
It is the latest case in which the clampdowns by authorities on illegal homes in such buildings have led to major discontentment among those forced to vacate.
According to a concern group representing the evictees in the Kwai Chung building, in late May, 23 residents were told by the landlord to move out before June 30 after an order was issued by the government.
One resident, who only gave his surname as Chan, said the landlord dismantled his washing machine and kitchen utilities on Monday.
“I cannot sleep at night,” another resident surnamed Yu, who lives in a cubicle flat with her husband and three-year-old daughter, said. “I don’t know when the landlord will come to tear down my place.”
Requests for help to the Buildings Department were left unanswered, the concern group said.
The crackdown on illegal homes in factory buildings came after two cases of fire last year.
However, many low-income families still live in such units despite the poor conditions.
Yu said the rent for her family was HK$2,400 a month. Their flat has no window, and all 23 tenants share three toilets.
Concern group spokesperson Susan Hung Yat-lam said one month was not enough for the residents to find alternative homes.
At a press conference on Friday held inside a hot and humid hallway in the building, residents and lawmakers were holding placards that read “I want a home” and “relocation before eviction”.
Demands made included a postponement of the deadline for moving out and provision of temporary accommodation at a transit centre in Kwai Chung.
The Buildings Department said it already issued an order in April demanding that the landlord stop using the factory units as residential flats.
In a statement released by the department, it said that it had arranged for social workers to visit the affected residents, in the hopes of providing support.
“It has always been the government’s policy to ensure that no one will be rendered homeless due to its enforcement action,” the statement read.
In 2015, tenants of cubicle flats in a Tsuen Wan industrial building staged a five-day sit-in at the offices of the Buildings Department demanding better relocation arrangements.
In February, 12 people living in tiny rooftop flats on a Kwun Tong factory building also accused the department of failing to provide assistance.
Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin, who was present at Friday’s press conference, said the government was responsible for rehousing people evicted from factory buildings.
“The core problem is the shortage in public housing,” Wan said. “People are living in places that are not suitable for living. This is because they have no other choice.”