九龍城是一個香港主要的泰裔人士的聚居地。其中，在重建範圍內的泰國移工工會（Thai Migrant Workers Union, TMWU）成立多年，是區內外泰國工人重要的社區資源，一直在九龍城，就是方便服務。另外，我們關注組內的泰裔街坊，其親戚朋友，全都在九龍城舊區中，這些社區網絡十分重要。放眼所見，單是重建區內便有兩間泰國食肆，更別說附近的泰國商店，服務著泰裔社群的日常生活所需。至今，在市區重建局重建藍圖內，只見為賺錢的高級住宅、商場和停車場，卻未見實質保存泰裔社區網絡及地方特色的措施和規劃。當區的基層泰裔街坊，若不能原區安置，他們的同鄉互助網絡便勢必潰散。這樣完全有違《市區重建策略》中「5h 在切實可行的範圍內保存地方特色 」及「5i 在切實可行的範圍內保存區內居民的社區網絡 」的要求。
我們已經得知，區內有業主會在知悉重建後，逆市瘋狂加租，以變相迫遷。趕走凍結日已獲市建局登記的住宅租戶和舖租戶。我們知道，因多年前爭取，住宅租戶已經爭取到市建局承認凍結日住宅租戶身份以獲得應有的安置或補償，但是這個政策仍存在極大漏洞。其一，是市建局沒有為商戶提供足夠的保護措施; 其二，被迫遷者須向市建局提供業主迫遷的證據去申請市建局這方面的援助或補償。不過如果某業主存心趕走租戶假扮自用, 又怎會提供迫遷的證據？此漏洞須馬上補漏才是。因此，就著重建啟動後被迫遷的街坊個案，我們認為市建局必須承認凍結人口住戶及商戶登記，而不應因街坊被迫遷便拒絕正常的安置或補償，同時議定新的保障政策，讓租戶在面臨加租迫遷時能得到幫助。
目前為止，我們看不到市建局有任何具體的方針。1) 市建局有無任何計劃去在原區建設安置大廈以作安置?2) 市建局有沒有任何復業計劃可以協助小商戶原區重啟生意。
因此，在市建局能確保其為切實執行《市區重建策略》所要求的條件之前，我們希望城規會不要隨意通過由市區重建局提出的，有關啟啟德道／沙浦道市區重建計劃的草圖，亦即 S/K10/URA1/1 的草圖。
Statement from Kowloon City Urban Renewal Concern Group
RE: TPB hearing on Kai Tak Road / Sa Po Road Development Scheme (KC-015).
Kowloon City Urban Renewal Concern Group is formed by affected business operators and residents of the Kai Tak Road / Sa Po Road Development Scheme (KC-015). Today, the Town Planning Board will be holding a meeting for the proceeding of the above Scheme. This decision will affect our livelihood severely and also the future development of Kowloon City. It is regrettable that even the requirement by UN standard or the principle stated in Urban Renewal Strategy of Hong Kong assure the rights of citizens to access and participate in the planning process, this meeting is still set in a morning of a working day, which has already excluded people whose economic condition does not allow their leave from work. “Public participation" has become a mere slogan. To express our needs and demands, we have prepared this statement. We demand the Board not to approve the Plan unless the URA can propose substantial solutions and measures to the existing and possible problems caused by urban renewal.
Demand the URA to re-do the freezing survey accurately
The 3-day freezing survey conducted by the URA on 22-24/2/2019 was inaccurate in reflecting the real living and business conditions of the affected people. Some residents and business operators were discontented with the problematic research practices of the staff during the survey and discovered incorrect records of their situations. For example, 3 households living in the same flat was registered as 1 household in only one freezing survey report, but there was a case of 2 households in the same flat registered under 2 separate reports. There were also Thai residents wrongly registered due to insufficient translation service provided by the URA. These examples reflected that the affected residents and business operators were unfairly treated. Therefore, our group demand the TPB not approving the Plan unless the URA re-conduct an accurate freezing survey that can truly reflect the situations of the affected people and thus protecting their rights. As far as we know, there are more than 10 units which were not properly registered in the freezing survey of the URA.
Demand the URA to fulfill its responsibilities stated in the Urban Renewal Strategy (URS)
Our group believes that urban renewal should improve the current living conditions of the affected residents and business operators, or at least should not worsen their current living conditions. “Preserving as far as practicable the social networks of the local community” is one of the objectives stated in the URS. It includes the networks and resources (jobs, schools, groceries places, customers, mutual help networks) for the everyday needs of the residents and business operators. The URA should prioritize the preservation of social networks in the local community when it makes plans and carries out urban renewal. Our group demands the URA to promise and make substantial plan to ensure relocation in the original area for all the residents and re-starting business in the original area for the business operators and their employees. These measures are in line with the principles of urban renewal stated in the URS, namely “6(b) tenants affected by redevelopment projects should be provided with proper rehousing” and “5(i) preserving as far as practicable the social networks of the local community.”
Demand the URA to preserve the Thai community and local characteristics
Kowloon City has been a Thai community since the 1970s. If the URA does not provide public housing relocation in original area for the grassroots Thai people, their social networks will definitely collapse. For example, the Thai Migrant Worker Union (TMWU) has been moving around in the same area since their establishment and is currently located in the Plan. TMWU is a community of and for Thai workers. Staying in Kowloon City, for TWMU, is due to its proximity to the Thai residents and workers, and the affordable rent in old district. The relatives and friends of the Thai residents and business operators in our group are all living in or near Kowloon City. The Songkran Festival which TMWU takes part in its organization also takes place in Kowloon City annually. There are already two Thai restaurants in the two streets included by the Plan. There are more Thai shops in and near the area that serves the everyday needs of the Thai community.
Ridiculously, the URA Community Development Manager Miss Yan (will check with Dang) said that she did not know there were so many Thai people in Kowloon City on the first URA meeting with the residents. This reflects the URA’s ignorance to the community it is going to redevelop and the possible negative impacts of its plans on the local communities, including the Thai community. Such respond also reflected that the URA has no preparations to reduce the negative impacts caused by urban renewal to the Thai community. According to the URA staff, there are at least 20 Thai households (as we stated above that their freezing survey was inaccurate, meaning the actual number should be more than this record). We would like to know how the URA would relocate these residents and preserve the social network and local characteristics? The URA did not admit their fault and attempt to pacify the anger of the Thai people until TMWU voiced out the issues. Yet, we saw no substantial solutions proposed by the URA in tackling the existing and possible impacts we foreseen. It is violating the objectives of “5 (h) preserving as far as practicable local characteristics” and “5(i) preserving as far as practicable the social networks of the local community” stated in the URS. Therefore, we demand the TPB not approving the Plan unless the URA provides actual and substantial solutions to preserve the Thai community and other local characteristics.
Demand the TPB and URA to provide Thai and other languages translations of the documents for public inspection
The TPB only published the draft Plan on the Internet. Both the URA and the TPB did not make direct and official notice to the affected residents and business operators, so most of them did not know the details of the Plan. Kowloon City is well-known as Little Thailand in Hong Kong, and the URA also knows there are at least 20 Thai households and organizations in the area, yet, only Chinese and English versions are publicly available on the Internet. Last week near weekend, finally, after some protest and struggle, the TPB agreed to give Thai residents only a summary of the paper of the meetings. Recently, we learned that there is a Brazilian household who only read Portugese, but neither Chinese nor English, in the area. URA should have known all these situations during the freezing survey. Moreover, urban renewal is a very complicated procedure which demands a longer time for people to understand. Therefore, we demand an extension of the plan exhibition period and provision of Thai, Portugese and other language versions documents for all the affected residents and business operators to have sufficient and equally clear access to the details of the Plan and make representations, thus protecting the rights of people in different ethnicities to be fairly treated.
Demand the URA to stick to the freezing survey registration in compensating the evicted residents and business operators
Learning from the experience of the To Kwa Wan business operators and also in KC-015, we realize the possibility of the landlord to evict tenants by unreasonable rent increase. The landlord might arrange their relatives, friends or themselves to “rent” the place after eviction original tenants to get more compensation. Despite of the fact whether the URA finally compensate these new renters or not, the business operators who are renting and operating on the day of freezing survey become true victims. We learned that resident-tenants had successfully fought for recognition of their identity and compensation according to the identity registered in the freezing survey from the long time struggles. We demand the URA to treat business operators who are tenants in the same way. Those who have been and will be evicted are definitely not big business but small business operators. If the URA does not have any protection to them, small business will die out more quickly.
Furthermore, there is another loophole in the current URA tenant policy. According to the current policy, the tenant needs to prove their eviction by the landlord in order to be eligible to relocation or compensation. However, in reality, if the landlord intends to evict the tenant and arrange new tenants, how will he or she admit their eviction intention? The URA needs to solve this loophole immediately.
Demand the URA to provide plans that can alleviate negative impacts brought by urban renewal
We do not see any substantial and practicable plans proposed by the URA in alleviating the negative impacts brought by urban renewal until this moment. We are concerned with these issues, 1. Does the URA have any plans to build residential buildings for relocating affected residents in the original area? 2. Does the URA have any business re-establishment plans for the affected business to re-start their business in the original area? The URA is definitely putting the livelihoods of the affected residents and business operators in huge risks if it does not provide such plans.
Therefore, our group demands the TPB not approving the draft Urban Renewal Authority Kai Tak Road/Sa Po Road Development Scheme Plan No. S/K10/URA1/1 unless the URA provides plans or measures that can substantially protect and improve the livelihoods of the affected people.
URA as a public institution, holds significantly more resources and power than the affected people in the course of urban renewal. Yet, the basic right to know, rights to housing, and rights to continue their original livelihood of the affected community are not that properly protected. We will continue to demand for these basic rights as a citizen.
Kowloon City Urban Renewal Concern Group
Copy sent to: Thai Migrant Worker Union, Equal Opportunity Committee, old district autonomy advancement group, Urban Renewal Authority, St. James’ Settlement Urban Renewal Social Service Team, Development Bureau