Thirty animals were made homeless on the coldest day so far this winter when the government evicted a pet shelter in Tsuen Wan.
Chui Yuk-lan, 55, who has taken care of abandoned animals for a decade, housed 16 dogs and 30 cats in two squatter huts she built in Kam Shan village, on a hill near the Shek Lei Estate.
The Lands Department evicted her yesterday morning because she built the sheet-metal huts on government land without permission and had not complied with two previous warnings to move out. Some of the animals were temporarily housed with neighbours, while others ran off into the bushes.
Pet lovers said that while the government was within its legal rights, the eviction was unfair as other villagers occupying adjacent plots, some bigger than a football field, were staying put.
Chui said: 'I understand that the government must get its land back, but it should be fairer when doing it. If they want me to go, everyone else should go.'
Out of her HK$8,000 a month pay she spent HK$3,000 to house the animals, and also fed strays. She became emotional when talking about two of the dogs, Black and Wolf.
'I will miss them a lot. They had been with me for 10 years since the government caught their mother at Kam Shan. I took care of the two puppies,' she said.
Also in the shelter were kittens whose mother had been poisoned, and dogs injured by abusive owners.
William Tung, a volunteer who helped Chui, said he had begged for more time to rehouse the animals but to no avail. About 100 people have signed up to a Facebook group Tung set up to explain Chui's case, and 10 volunteers went to the village yesterday in a failed effort to delay eviction.
They were outnumbered by 40 people - police and officials from the Lands Department and the Agriculture and Fisheries Department.
The volunteers knocked on the doors of nearby homes seeking temporary shelter for the animals and some were still walking dogs in the street last night.
'Only eight dogs and seven cats were adopted. Some are now kept by Chui's neighbours and animal enthusiasts, and a bunch of them escaped into the woods. For the rest, we will let them stay in our homes tonight,' Tung said. 'They will need new, permanent homes.'
Tung played a recording of a conversation he had with a Lands Department officer, who said Chui's eviction might have run against the usual practice of handling more serious cases first. The officer was heard to say that others were occupying land more prominently and evicting Chui earlier could have been the result of an error in the filing process.
'Chui is the weakest woman in the neighbourhood and they evicted her, not the others who farm illegally uphill and cause landslides,' Tung said.
A Lands Department spokesman was not available for comment.