LegCo Paper No. CB(1)71/96-97
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PL/PLW

LegCo Panel on Planning, Lands and Works

Minutes of special meeting held on Monday, 22 July 1996 at 8:30 a.m. in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :
    Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, OBE, JP (Chairman)
    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
Members attending :
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling
Members absent :
    Hon LAU Wong-fat, OBE, JP
    Hon CHIM Pui-chung
    Hon James TO Kun-sun
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, MBE, FEng, JP
    Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Hon SIN Chung-kai
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing
Public officers attending :
    Mr Dominic S W WONG, OBE, JP
    Secretary for Housing
    Mrs Fanny LAW, JP
    Deputy Director of Housing (Housing Management & Work)
    Mr LAU Kai-hung
    Assistant Director/Operations and Redevelopment
Staff in attendance :
    Mr Jimmy MA
    Miss Odelia LEUNG
    Ms Connie SZE-TO

Clearance of the Tiu Keng Leng Cottage Area

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1886/95-96)

1. The High Court judgement (the judgement) on the case and some documents provided by residents' representatives of Tiu Keng Leng (TKL) Cottage Area were tabled at the meeting.

2. The Chairman informed members that the meeting was called at the request of some members to discuss the clearance of TKL Cottage Area in the light of the judgement delivered on 27 June 1996 on 82 residents' applications for judicial review of the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA)'s action to issue the Notices to Quit (the Notices). As background information, the Chairman briefly stated the three compensation packages for residents proposed by the Administration since December 1992. He said that the Panel had held seven meetings since then to discuss the clearance and related issues and had expressed views which were largely in line with the judgement.

3. At the Chairman's invitation, Mr Dominic S W WONG confirmed that the Administration did not intend to appeal against the judgement. Mr WONG then explained the key points of the judgement and the actions taken by the Administration as follows -

  1. The judgement had established some TKL residents' entitlement to damages and provided a mechanism whereby such damages could be assessed and awarded. In case the Administration and the residents failed to reach an agreement on compensation, both parties could revert to the court for an assessment. The Administration had not taken a position on compensation arrangements. It had initiated negotiations with the affected residents and requested their solicitors to put forth the formal claims.
  2. The judgement had also made clear that HA was legally entitled to proceed with the clearance pursuant to the Notices. The High Court Judge had pointed out that the clearance of the area was urgently required to make way for the Tseung Kwan O New Town Phase III Development and had advised residents to move out peacefully. The Administration intended to begin the clearance on 30 July 1996. A letter was issued to all the remaining residents on 11 July 1996 explaining the Administration's position and reiterating that their rights to compensation would not be affected by their moving out of the cottage area.

4. Some members pointed out that the judgement explicitly and repeatedly stated that the 1961 letters issued by the then Commissioner for Resettlement were solemn promises on the part of the Administration to TKL residents and that the serving of the Notices was unfair to the residents which amounted in law to an abuse of power. They expressed great disappointment at the Administration's proposed course of action and criticised the Administration for lacking sincerity in discussing damages with the residents. Mr YUM Sin-ling opined that although the judgement stated that the legal right to claim damages was limited to the original residents of TKL, the qualification for damages might still be a matter for argument. He hoped that all TKL residents would be compensated.

5. In response, the representatives of the Administration made the following points -

  1. The Administration had proposed three clearance packages for the residents over the past few years. The first offer was made in December 1992 with the special ex-gratia allowance (SEGA) setting at $3,450/mý. SEGA was revised to $5,037/mý in July 1994 and was further improved to $7,000/ mý in March 1995. The final package had taken into account the special historical background of TKL Cottage Area as well as the views of LegCo Members and the residents expressed previously. SEGA was a much enhanced rate not available in other clearance cases. So far, over 90% of the residents had accepted the final package and about 70% of them had already moved out.
  2. Since the release of the written judgement on 2 July 1996, the Administration had held two meetings on 3 and 10 July 1996 with the remaining residents to discuss the compensation and rehousing arrangements. The applicants' solicitors indicated that their clients reserved the rights to challenge the validity of the Notices in accordance with the private law. Nonetheless, the Administration had requested the solicitors to submit the formal claims for damages but had yet to receive them.
  3. Members could rest assured that the Administration would respect the judgement and continue to liaise with the residents regarding the extent of and the eligibility for compensation.

6. On the timetable for carrying out the clearance, members were of the view that the proposed clearance date, i.e. 30 July 1996, which was barely a month after the delivery of the judgement, was unreasonable. Mr YUM Sin-ling said that he had received over 1,000 residents' signatures protesting against the clearance date. Mr Albert CHAN strongly disapproved of the Administration's intention to cut the supplies of water and electricity as well as the ferry services to TKL in the near future as a means of forcing residents to vacate the area. He remarked that such actions would not be conducive to peaceful clearance. Some members opined that to follow the advice of the Judge, the Administration should discuss with the residents on the time for clearance. Understandably the residents would prefer to settle the compensation matters first before moving out. They suggested that the clearance should be postponed for three months until 22 October 1996 so that both the residents and the Administration would have sufficient time to discuss the compensation and rehousing arrangements.

7. On members' concerns and suggestion, Mrs Fanny LAW and Mr LAU Kai-hung made the following points -

  1. The judgement affirmed that the clearance of the cottage area was urgently required to make way for the development of the new town. The judgement made no suggestion that the clearance should be held in abeyance pending the discussion on and settlement of damages.
  2. The Administration planned to proceed with the phased clearance programme on 30 July 1996. Areas 1, 3 and 5 of the cottage area would be cleared first so that the sea reclamation works required for the construction of trunk roads could commence. The clearance date was considered realistic since residents had been allowed sufficient time to prepare for the removal.
  3. As regards the rehousing arrangements, the Housing Department had made every effort to accommodate the remaining households of the three areas. Staff had been working over-time to expedite the process. Once the residents accepted the housing offer, the Housing Department would make arrangements to enable them to take up the public housing units immediately. The Administration did not anticipate any problem in rehousing the residents before the clearance date.
  4. At present, water and electricity supplies as well as ferry services were still available to residents. The water and electricity services would be suspended after the commencement of the clearance.
  5. The clearance of TKL had already been delayed, and the progress of various housing and development projects in Tseung Kwan O had been seriously held back. While the Administration would deal flexibly with the residents who faced genuine difficulty in moving out on the clearance date, it did not consider it advisable to further defer the clearance date. The Administration assured members that discussion with the residents on compensation would be carried out concurrently with the clearance programme.

8. The Chairman sought the Legal Adviser, Mr Jimmy MA's advice on the interpretation of the judgement. Mr MA said that in delivering the judgement, the High Court Judge recognised some TKL residents' entitlement to damages but maintained that HA had a statutory duty to provide public housing. The Judge did not make an order on compensation and expected that the parties would discuss and agree on the compensation arrangements, failing which, they could revert to the court for an assessment. On the issue of the Notices, the judgement upheld that it was valid and necessary in view of the wider public interest, namely the need for new town development. However, the judgement made no suggestion on the timetable for clearance.

9. Members discussed the way in taking forward the matter. Members agreed that the compensation issue should be left for the parties concerned, and ultimately the court, to decide and that the moving out of the residents should not affect their rights to compensation. Members hoped that both parties could reach an agreement on compensation quickly. On the timing for clearance, members urged the Administration to consider the needs of the residents and to liaise with them with a view to agreeing on a mutually acceptable timetable. Members were of the view that where necessary, it would be reasonable to allow the residents three months from the date of this meeting to discuss with the Housing Department on the rehousing arrangements.

10. Mr WONG confirmed that if additional funds were required for the payment of compensation, as a result of either an agreement with the residents or a court award, the Administration would seek the approval of the Finance Committee. He added that it would not be practicable to defer the clearance.

11. The meeting ended at 10:00 a.m.
LegCo Secretariat
7 October 1996

Last Updated on 21 Aug, 1998