Varsity spoke with 11 store owners along the pathways and found the current owners had either bought the shops from the previous occupants, or rent from them. While some of them say that their stores belong to the private buildings, others think their stores are on government land. Many say they do not know who owns the land.
Wong Ying-kit has owned his bag shop for the past 20 years. The 72-year-old says he will follow suit if Victory Medicine wins its adverse possession case. “I have to wait for the verdict. If it is the death penalty, then of course I won’t follow,” Wong says. He believes that his shop belongs to Yue Wah Mansion.
Some of his neighbours are less upbeat. The owner of a sock shop, Fong Kee, says she does not think the pharmacy will succeed. Her mother occupied the land more than 40 years ago and she is unsure if the pathways are on government land or land that belongs to the private buildings.
“The Urban Renewal Authority must know whether the land is public or private, but they did not tell us,” she says. She hopes it is private land, so that she will be entitled to more compensation for the redevelopment.
To clear up their confusion, Varsity contacted the district councillor responsible for Kwun Tung Central, Nelson Chan Wah-yu to ask about land ownership. Chan said he does not know how to answer the question and suggested the questions be directed to the Urban Renewal Authority. “The situation is very messy. We cannot make it clear in a few words,” he said.
The Urban Renewal Authority replied that, “the shops are located on different boundaries, we cannot tell if the places they occupy generally are on government land.” They added the shopkeepers do not possess formal ownership of the shop space and the department would handle those cases when they carry out land resumption in Development Area Five.
However, the Lands Department says the three pathways do have private ownership. This would mean that it is likely the shops in the pathways are potential adverse possession cases, as the required occupied period for private land is only 12 years.
Could this lead to a spate of adverse possession disputes? Will the store owners be able to obtain more compensation as a result? They have little time to stake their claims as the Urban Renewal Authority will start the redevelopment work in Area Five in 2015.