SCMP Thursday, February 15, 2001

Villagers evicted by bolt-cutter squad


More than 100 Housing Department officers moved in with bolt-cutters and crowbars yesterday to begin clearing a Diamond Hill squatter village - three months after protesting residents forced its demolition to be postponed.
They evicted 40 people blacklisted from receiving compensation because they had moved to Tai Hom village after the demolition plan had been announced.
The residents were persuaded to leave peacefully without having to be physically escorted away.
Among those evicted was a 43-year-old woman who suffered a heart attack as officers tried to talk her into leaving. She was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Her condition was not known last night. Earlier, she had told legislator Chan Yuen-han, who was trying to mediate, that she was tricked into buying the hut in 1996 for more than $20,000 in the hope of being rehoused.
Only 41 out of more than 170 families have accepted rehousing offers. Chief housing manager Lee Keng-sum said residents who had accepted the offers would be given seven days to leave.
"We hope to avoid confrontation as much as we can. But we cannot tolerate that there are still families who refuse our rehousing offers. We're determined to make them leave," he said. He refused to say if they would be physically removed.
Restaurant owner Wong Mei-ho said she would stay on beyond the deadline because she could not afford to rent another place without compensation. She said the Government declined to compensate her because she could not prove she had been operating the restaurant for 20 years.
Owners of about 20 other shops took their last chance to do business yesterday.
Among them was grocer Chan Chun-sam, 75, who has run the shop for more than 30 years. He is closing after receiving $170,000 compensation.
The area is due to be developed into a green public housing estate under government plans.