Around 100 tenants may be left homeless by Friday after the Hong Kong government announced it would requisition a plot of farmland in Yuen Long owned by real estate developer Henderson.
Last month, the Lands Department placed notices on a plot in Ng Ka Tsuen near the Kam Sheung Road MTR station, where illegal subdivided housing had been built. The department demanded that occupants leave before Friday, reported HK01.
“Otherwise, the government will take action, including taking over the structure on the premises and clearing any chattels and personal belongings left inside the structure without further notice,” the notices read.
Residents interviewed by HK01 said that they moved into the illegally-built subdivided houses because they were poor. “The houses here are around 400 square feet in size, with a monthly rent of HK$4,000 – you can’t find these outside,” said one woman who declined to be named.
“Many immigrants live here. Some of them are on social welfare, others work temporary jobs in the area,” she added. The government has not yet announced any plans to assist in relocating them.
The farmland was originally a pigsty owned by a local villager, but it was sold in 2006 to Funco Limited. A Henderson spokesperson confirmed to HKFP that Funco is a subsidiary.
The Development Bureau and the Planning Department submitted documents to the Yuen Long District Council in 2014 outlining the intention to develop the farmland for public housing. The Town Planning Board approved the plan in 2016.
HK01 estimated that Henderson could receive up to HK$67 million in compensation for the 6,600 square metres of requisitioned land.
Land requisition or redemption?
Lawmaker Eddie Chu, known for his activism on land issues, wrote on Facebook on Monday that his team had enquired about Ng Ka Tsuen on numerous occasions and asked the government to provide new housing for the villagers.
He believed, however, that ownership of the land would eventually return to Henderson.
“There is suspicion that the government and Henderson have colluded. First the government would requisition the land and force evictions, then Henderson would redeem the land from the government,” he claimed.
“Eventually, some residents seem to have given up seeking help because they received pressure,” he said without providing further details.
A Henderson spokesperson told HKFP on Monday that the company commenced legal proceedings to remove the illegal structures at Ng Ka Tsuen last year.
“However, the government requisitioned the land before the proceedings concluded… there is no question of compensation.”
Serious violations of land leases
The Lands Department issued a press release on Monday, stating that it had requisitioned the plot of land in question at Ng Ka Tsuen. It added that there were 41 illegal structures housing 39 families.
The department cited the existence of these illegal structures – constituting serious violations of land leases – as its reason for the requisition.
“Requisitioned private farmland becomes government land, and the Lands Department will consider prosecuting any persons who illegally occupies government land,” read the press release.
“Therefore, members of the public should obtain professional advice before purchasing or renting structures on farmland, so as to avoid purchasing or renting illegal structures.”
The department added that it requisitioned 18 plots of farmland over the past three years because owners ignored warnings over illegal structures.