Shopkeepers battle police

MILITANT former To Kwa Wan shopkeepers wrestled policemen to the ground during an attempt yesterday to reoccupy their stores which have been closed for redevelopment.

The 1.1-hectare site was heavily guarded by 50 police tactical unit and uniformed officers before the 2 pm protest after a warning by the shopkeepers the night before.

Violence erupted as the 10 diehards ignored police warnings and tore down hoardings and gates of the closed premises with iron bars and heavy pliers.

Police quickly formed a human wall and subdued the protesters but several officers were pushed to the ground as tempers flared.

Protest organiser Tsui Chor-yat, 39, and four other men, aged 21 to 35, were arrested and taken to Kowloon City police station.

Chiu Chi-wo, 33, who claimed to have been beaten by police, was arrested after being discharged from Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The shopkeepers were evicted from the squalid blocks - surrounded by Ma Tau Kok Road, Pak Tai Street, Pau Chung Street, San Shan Road, Sui Lun Street, and Wang Cheung Street - two weeks ago after holding up clearance for seven years. They were paid cash compensation of up to $2 million each but wanted more.

Latest figures show about 30 shopkeepers have not responded to Lands Department offers. A total of $68 million has been paid to 1,780 families and operators.

Tsui said: ''They [the Government] ignore our demands. And we ignore their orders and take back our properties. It is a fair deal and there is nothing wrong with it.'' Tsui was arrested in an earlier protest at the Lands Department where he broke a window while arguing in vain for more compensation.