Hong Kong street sleepers claim compensation after belongings are allegedly dumped in government raid

They want money and official apology after Food and Environmental Hygiene Department workers allegedly kick them out of ‘home’ in West Kowloon tunnel without proper notice

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 January, 2016, 3:10pm
UPDATED : Monday, 11 January, 2016, 6:10pm

A group of street sleepers have filed lawsuits against the government asking for an official apology and compensation as their handmade shelters were unexpectedly fenced off and their belongings, including their identity cards, dumped into garbage trucks in an alleged “concerted effort” by local authorities to “clean the street”.

Lodging claims in the city’s Small Claim Tribunal on Monday morning, the street sleepers said they were forced to decamp to other locations to settle after they were barred access to their “home” inside a tunnel in West Kowloon by police without a proper notice, and their property was thrown away by staff of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department(FEHD).

This is the second such claim according to available records that the city’s homeless have stepped forward against the authorities, and is aimed at those who have allegedly behind the eviction and financial losses of street sleepers in Yau Tsim Mong district.

READ MORE: Hong Kong street sleepers consider legal action over belongings ‘trashed’ in government clean-up raid

“It’s not against the Hong Kong law for people to sleep on the street,” said Ng Wai-tung, a community organiser with the Society for Community Organisation who is assisting the street sleepers.

“What the government has done has made many of them lose almost all that they have and that happened all of a sudden.”

Some claimants said it became more difficult for them to hunt for a job and that they may face possible prosecution as their Hong Kong identity cards were also among the casualties of the “street washing” act.

Limbu Rajesh, a Nepalese street sleeper seeking HK$5,750 from the city’s Secretary of Justice at the hearing, told the Post his Nepalese passport was also dumped.

At a preliminary session attended by both sides on Monday morning, tribunal adjudicator Tim Shum Kei-leong said he would need further documents from the street sleepers specifying the value of the items they claimed to have lost and the identities of the FEHD staff at the scene at the hearing proper. “The attached material had better include photos of their ruined property concerned in this case and bills showing how much they are worth,” Shum said.

READ MORE: ‘I’d rather live on the streets than in a filthy subdivided flat’: action needed to tackle Hong Kong’s homeless

Shum said two key issues to be considered would be whether the FEHD staff had committed any wrongdoing in this act and how much the compensation would be should they be held liable for the street sleepers’ losses.

The representative of the Secretary of Justice told the tribunal she was awaiting further instructions associated with the case.

Shum adjourned the case to March 2.

The street sleepers filed the claim after their protests in front of the Legislative Council earlier were not met with an ideal response.