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Shack attack fails for now
The Standard
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A 50-year-old shack-cum-shop surrounded by Causeway Bay skyscrapers was saved from the wrecker's ball after a last-minute change of heart by officials.

They said demolition was halted yesterday after the owner, interior designer Tong Wah-jor, applied for an injunction against a removal order issued by the Buildings Department on July 17.

Tong's father built the shack, in Matheson Street, half a century ago and it now doubles as his shop and family home.

A truck - apparently to be used in the demolition - arrived early yesterday, but later left.

However, Tong claims that media pressure has put the brakes on the department's plans.

Tong, 48, has been locked in legal battles with the department since June 2007, when a removal order was first issued.

He was notified last week of the imminent destruction of his premises.

Tong says officials have told him the shack is a hygiene blackspot but have not told him in what respect.

A department spokeswoman said the reason for the shack's removal is its illegality, not hygiene.

"[It] is an illegal structure because the occupant has never submitted a building plan to the department for approval."

The term hygiene blackspot came from the Home Affairs Department, she said, but the Buildings Department is seeking to get rid of it on legal grounds.

Tong said the shack was given a registered number by the government in 1985.

"If the government gives us the number, it means the shack is allowed us to stay," he said.

Tong is also in a legal battle over possession of the land with property firm Hysan Development, which is the owner of the property, according to the Buildings Department.

When he learned of the department's plans to demolish it, Tong sought an injunction to stop the move before his legal battle with Hysan begins on August 10.

Tong suspects this may behind the government's desire to tear the shack down. "If the shack is demolished, all the evidence will be lost [for my court case with Hysan]," he said.

But Mark Tung Yin-kwun, head of communications for Hysan, said the Building Department move is "completely independent" of its case with Tong.
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