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Legislative Council Question 5 : "Policy on squatter control" by the Hon Chan Kam-lam and an oral reply by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council

Following is a question by the Hon Chan Kam-lam and an oral reply by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (March 1):

Question:

Will the Government inform this Council

(a) of the respective current numbers of squatter huts in the territory and residents therein;

(b) whether it plans to clear all squatter huts in Hong Kong; if so, of the details of the clearance timetable; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) whether it plans to conduct a comprehensive review of the existing policy on squatter control?

Reply:

Madam President,

Due to the influx of Mainland immigrants and rising birth rate, Hong Kong's population grew drastically in the 1950s and 1960s. Housing supply was then unable to cope with the surge in demand. As a result, thousands of people erected squatter huts on undeveloped and unleased government land or leased private agricultural land. Illegal immigration, which reached a peak by the end of the 1970s, exacerbated the problem. It was only after the implementation of a series of immigration control measures in the early 1980s that the squatter population began to stabilise.

To gradually reduce the number of squatter huts, the Government conducted a territory-wide Squatter Structure Survey in 1982 and announced that the surveyed structures are allowed to remain until the land is required for public purpose or the structures have to be demolished for safety reasons. In the interim, the Government provides and maintains the basic facilities in the squatter areas to improve the living environment. Through routine patrols, newly erected structures are demolished so as to contain the number of squatter structures. Upon squatter clearance, suitable rehousing arrangements are provided to the affected clearees depending on their eligibility. The squatter clearance and control arrangements described above have been in place since 1982.

My reply to the three-part question is as follows:

(a) Since the Squatter Occupancy Survey conducted in 1984, the Government has not conducted any other surveys or studies to monitor the movements in squatter population. Hence, we can only make reference to the quarterly General Household Survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department. Based on that survey, at present there are about 40 000 people living in temporary housing, which includes squatter structures and roof-top structures etc. Structures built of permanent materials are excluded.

(b) In the absence of development plan or safety concerns, large-scale clearance of squatter areas is not only disruptive to the occupants but will also lead to substantial resource implications arising from land resumption, rehousing and land administration. In view of these considerations, the Government will continue to carry out squatter clearances having regard to development need or public safety. As such, we have no plan to clear all squatter areas. To assist squatters to improve their living conditions as soon as possible, squatter control staff from time to time persuades and assists them to apply for public rental housing. Since 2001, a total of 7 500 squatter households have been rehoused to public rental flats through the General Waiting List.

(c) On squatter control, the Government conducts regular patrols to deter illegal squatting on Government land and leased agricultural land. New structures are demolished upon detection. Meanwhile, the basic facilities in the existing squatter areas will be maintained and repaired as necessary to ensure safety and hygiene. These squatter control measures have effectively helped to contain the proliferation of squatting while assisting squatters in need. The arrangements outlined above still apply and we have no plan to alter the current policy on squatter clearance and control.

Ends/Wednesday, March 1, 2006
Issued at HKT 14:55

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