Shape up for fire safety, or ship out: crackdown on tenants in six industrial blocks starts today
The move by the Lands Department follows city-wide calls for checks on factory buildings in the aftermath of two fires, one of which is the deadly Ngau Tau Kok inferno
At least 20 businesses operating in industrial buildings against land lease terms remained open, despite a deadline yesterday for the breaches to be rectified in a government crackdown to enhance fire safety.
The Lands Department began taking enforcement action yesterday against units at 11 industrial buildings which are violating land lease conditions. Out of 73 cases, 19 have ceased operation while another 34 required further investigation.
Among the businesses which are still running is a war-gaming venue at Chung Hing Industrial Mansions in San Po Kong, one of 11 factory blocks targeted in the crackdown.
At least a dozen teenagers were inside the premises yesterday afternoon, but a staff member refused an interview request. Its reservation hotline remained functional, saying bookings were being accepted for September.
A wing chun martial arts school at a targeted tower in Kowloon Bay had its doors shut. But others were treading a fine line, such as a textile warehouse on the second floor which doubled as a retail outlet.
The owner, surnamed Wong, said he had not received any notice as owner or occupant of the unit, but said he was ready to stop advertising his warehouse as an outlet since the extra revenue it generated was very limited.
“Did you see anyone come up during the time we talked? I don’t rely on individual customers, but don’t mind a little extra income,” he said.
All 11 factory buildings housed premises which were licensed to store or manufacture dangerous goods. Authorities said tenants engaging in activities that were not for industrial or warehousing purposes would create a public safety risk with the extra influx of people.
Owners of such units would receive warning letters from the District Lands Office, and repossession procedures would kick in if no action was taken after 14 days.
The department stressed the operation would continue in phases to cover more than 200 buildings with dangerous goods licences.
Current laws do not authorise lands officials to enter units without owners’ consent. The department urged owners to facilitate inspections or repossession procedures would follow.
The crackdown was announced by development chief Paul Chan Mo-po last month in the wake of a blaze in June at a building housing mini-storage units which took the lives of two firefighters.
The initial operation only covered six buildings. Those targeted complained about selective enforcement and using them as scapegoats.
The department said violation cases involving lesser risks would still be recorded by the Land Registry for possible further action.
A separate inspection of the city’s 760 mini-storage facilities is still under way. Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok revealed the Fire Services Department had issued 88 tickets against 24 violations, while the Buildings Department had issued 55 orders to remove or rectify structures which posed safety risks.