URA violated my privacy

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CITY3 南華早報 DONALD ASPREY
2006-08-23

My privacy has been violated, says resident refusing to move

The Urban Renewal Authority is in deadlock with the last remaining residential landlord in the Wedding Card Street redevelopment area, with the owner accusing officers of intruding on his privacy.

Henry Kuang Jingxiang, 57, said five officers entered his home in the Lee Tung Street Development Scheme in Wan Chai without invitation on August 4, rummaged through his flat and asked pointed questions about his mental health.

Mr Kuang, a former Hong Kong division one footballer in the 1970s, has been diagnosed with a form of functional nervous disorder he attributes to the stress of the redevelopment and death of his mother last year. I had made an appointment to see my social worker so when I heard knocking on the door I naturally presumed it was him. But when I opened the door there were five officers who opened the gate and let themselves in, he said.

Two of the officers sat either side of me on the sofa while the others went through my flat. They didn't ask anything regarding compensation, just asking about my illness and what medication I take. I felt it was very personal. Then they went through my late mother's bedroom, which even I haven't been into since she died. I was so afraid. It was like robbers barging into my house. It was a blatant intrusion into my personal life.

Social worker Chau Chun-yan, of St James Settlement, arrived to find Mr Kuang pale-faced and frightened.

When I got to the flat an officer opened the door and I saw Mr Kuang surrounded by men. His head was shaking, he looked very tired and very scared, Mr Chau said. There shouldn't have been so many people, it was very intimidating. And the questions they asked had nothing to do with urban renewal. When I arrived they left very quickly.

I had specifically told the URA that Mr Kuang gets very nervous and if they want to see him they go through me, he said, adding he had arranged a meeting in June.

A URA spokesman said it had made numerous attempts to contact Mr Kuang to no avail. He said officers had visited out of genuine concern for his health to assist with his relocation and Mr Kuang had invited them in where they then had a friendly chat. It is deeply regrettable if our home visit in question was mistaken as an intrusion into Mr Kuang's personal life.
Chan Pak-chai, of the H15 Concern Group monitoring the redevelopment, said URA officials made a habit of sticking their noses into other people's business. Under the Urban Renewal Authority Ordinance, it is illegal for them to enter premises without prior notice or invitation. But they do this kind of thing all the time. Like a policeman investigating a crime, they barge into people's homes looking for the flimsiest evidence that they are not permanent residents of a flat so they can dock the compensation, Mr Chan said.
Lee Tung Street - known as Wedding Card Street because of the number of wedding card printers there - officially reverted to government land in November.

Mr Kuang is one of two remaining landlords, along with a store owner downstairs. He has turned down the offer of HK$1.2 million for his flat, asking the URA to keep their vow of finding a seven-year-old flat of equivalent size in the same area.
Mr Chan said the group was worried about the motive for tracing Mr Kuang's medical history, surmising the information could be used to discredit him should his case reach court or be used as an excuse to send him to an institution.
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