Shopkeepers threaten police

MILITANT To Kwa Wan shopkeepers fighting government eviction yesterday threatened to demolish the area by blowing up 10 canisters of liquefied petroleum gas.

Teams of firemen and medics were called and police closed off Pak Tai Street as joss-stick shop boss Chan Wai-man confronted officers with gas cylinders.

The dramatic last-ditch resistance marked yesterday's nine-hour operation to clear 118 squalid old buildings in Ma Tau Kok for a Housing Society redevelopment.

Two hundred police and Police Tactical Unit officers in full riot gear were sent to protect about 100 workers deployed to evict the occupiers of 66 shops who had ignored the Government's removal orders.

The shopkeepers, who have been paid up to $2 million compensation each, vowed to stay put until more money was forthcoming.

Scuffles broke out shortly after clearance began at 8 am when workers tried to enter single-lodger Szeto Lung's rooftop hut at San Shan Road.


He was pushed out of his illegally built home after a 15-minute stand-off. But a former Kowloon Walled City protester Chiu Shek-hang punched officers as he urged Mr Szeto to fight the workers before he was subdued and removed by police.

Meanwhile, metal factory owner Chiu Chi-wo claimed to have been beaten up while being forcibly removed from his Sui Lun Street factory by eight workers.

Mr Chiu, who had wounds on his chest and stomach, said: ''I politely asked them to show their staff identity cards. They ignored me and threw me out.'' He lodged a complaint and was taken to hospital for observation.

The rest of the morning saw a smooth clearance with workers managing to persuade operators to surrender.


But tensions rose as workers approached the Treasure House joss-stick shop shortly before 3 pm, when owner Chan Wai-man and his wife Chow Wai-chi threatened to set fire to 10 cylinders of LPG.

An angry Mr Chan, 44, hurled a cylinder out of his shop and claimed he had lit matches inside.


Police and workers quickly retreated and called in firemen and ambulances. Several stretchers were placed on the pavement.

The section of Pak Tai Street between Ma Tau Kok Road and San Shan Road was sealed off after firemen's warning that the neighbouring blocks could be flattened if the 10 cylinders exploded.

There was a tense half-an-hour stand-off as police negotiators and social workers talked to the couple.


Some anxious residents went out to the street while others hid in their homes.

Mr Chan, who was offered $560,000 for his 1,000 square feet shop which he bought two years ago, finally surrendered after officials agreed to reconsider his claims.

The Housing Society property development manager Daniel Lau King-shing described yesterday's eviction as peaceful and successful.