More than a dozen street vendors and business owners facing eviction from an old Hong Kong neighbourhood to make way for the city’s largest-ever redevelopment project have labelled the relocation and compensation packages on offer as unsatisfactory.
Most businesses originally operating as unauthorised shops in Yue Man Square at the centre of the Kwun Tong renewal project have accepted compensation deals from authorities.
But 13 hawkers who have operated in the area over four decades on an authorised basis have complained they are being turfed out of their own community.
A further three tradesmen are still awaiting relocation, while three unauthorised shop vendors refuse to leave.
Authorities last month evicted another shop owner in a sudden operation. The man had attempted to take his own life by jumping off a building, but was talked down by rescuers, according to media reports.
Urging a sympathetic approach from officials, Julian Fung Ping-tak, coordinator of the Living in Kwun Tong concern group, said: “The Urban Renewal Authority has a responsibility to uphold its principles of people-oriented development, improve the lives of residents in old districts and to preserve its culture and traditional economy, and to relocate people within their original areas.”
Planned in 1996, the Kwun Tong Town Centre Redevelopment Project is the authority’s biggest housing and commercial overhaul of its type, covering an area of 53,500 square metres (10,800 sq ft) and involving 1,653 property titles and 4,800 people.
All residents in the area have been relocated.
Lau Po-ling, 70, who has operated a cart selling handbags and hats, is among the 13 hawkers who have been selling clothing and other goods in the area for nearly 40 years.
They complain they have been given nowhere to go, even though they say they are being forced to leave their current operating area at the old Yue Man Square bus terminal, which is expected to be demolished in June.
“It’s good they are redeveloping Kwun Tong, but we hope the government can give us a satisfactory place to continue selling at least,” Lau said.
Since the new YM2 shopping centre opened behind them, she said, Food and Environmental Health Department officers had appeared every day to ask them when they were leaving, despite previously being uninterested.
In a written response, the authority and department said the hawkers held mobile licences and were authorised to operate anywhere on Hong Kong Island or Kowloon as long as they did not block passageways.
“As such, they are not affected by the redevelopment and do not need to be given any special redevelopment arrangements,” the authority said.
Lau said her age prevented her from pushing her cart to other places, adding many of her customers in Kwun Tong were also elderly.
She also rejected a suggestion to move into a bazaar that the authority created in the basement of the new mall to accommodate other hawkers.
“There’s no business there, it’s a dead zone,” Lau said.
Watch repairman Shir Wing-shing, who still operates a small stand on the pavement, is willing to move, but complained the department had yet to issue his tradesman licence, making it difficult for him to move into the new bazaar.
“I feel so helpless and don’t know how to face this situation. I just want the licence to be issued quickly,” he said.
The authority said the department was already coordinating with the remaining tradesmen on alternative arrangements.
Meanwhile, Fung said the owner of one of three remaining stalls in Yue Man Square had received a second court order to leave last week and authorities were expected to clear out the sundry shop by Tuesday morning.
The owner, named Lam, was said to be planning to chain himself to his stall in protest overnight.
He is set to miss out on the HK$90,000 (US$11,587) allowance offered by the authority. Lam was operating from an unlicensed structure, the authority said, so he was not entitled to receive the market value as he hoped.
In April, the authority announced it had set aside half of the units in the “Yue Man Lane” section of the new mall for any shop owners willing to relocate.
An authority spokesman said 15 of about 110 vendors had accepted an allowance package to move into the mall, with shops expected to start operating this month.
The authority has also offered them a 50 per cent discount on rent and management fees for the first three-year tenancy term.
Category: Hong Kong