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南亞日用品雜貨店Sun Star Trading由Jagpreet Singh 開業，於土瓜灣區經營 10 年，最初於紅墈營業，後來於2012年搬至榮光街現址，至今也經過六個年頭。
不同文化背景的居民有其生活所需，而雜貨店每天就為周邊許多基層印度家庭及巴基斯坦家庭提供著價格廉宜的生活必需品。「Chinese people want Chinese food, we Indian and Pakistani people want Indian and Pakistani food」（「華裔人士想食他們的食物，印度人和巴基斯坦人想食我們的食物」），店主Jagpreet如是說。探訪期間正值黃昏，印巴婦女及客人進進出出，為準備晚飯選購食材，有人買了製作roti（一種麵包，是印巴部分地區居民的主糧之一）所需的麵粉、有人買了家鄉出產的芒果與調味料、有人買了與鄉下親人聯絡所用的電話卡。Jagpreet說，每天有約300-400人來光顧，雜貨店是土瓜灣少數族裔社群不可或缺的社區網絡。除了作為生活所需的提供所，打理雜貨店日常業務的員工，也是居於附近的南亞裔街坊，雜貨店亦提供了工作機會予他們，這也是其重要性所在。
註２：【舊區重建短評】 加碼賠償租客是煙幕? 市建局沒告訴你的四件事！（文：舊區街坊自主促進組）：http://wp.me/p5xEw3-Pe
Popular ethnic shop face imminent eviction by landlord in To Kwa wan: A chapter of urban renewal in Hong Kong
Report by grassroots media
Japgreet Singh have been running his ethnic shop Sun Star Trading in To Kwa Wan for more than 10 years. He first began his business in Hung Hum, a nearby district, before moving into current location on Wing Kwon Street 6 Years ago.
Japgreet’s shop have been serving local ethnic minority communities in To Kwa wan, catering the daily needs of families. “Chinese people want Chinese food, we Indian and Pakistani people want Indian and Pakistani food” Japgreet explained. Throughout our interview, we can see many customers making their routine purchase, from grains for roti, mango and spices from Pakistan to cheap pre-paid card for long distance call to hometown. “There are roughly 300-400 people visiting the shop everyday”. Japgreet continued.
It is fair to say that this ethnic shop have become an important locale for ethnic minority communities in To Kwa Wan, not only does it provides daily necessities for families, but it is a also a place where the community establish and maintain their social relations. People are connected through the shop and it also provides job opportunities for the communities.
Since last year, Japreet’s shop was included in one of the many urban renewal projects initiated by Urban Renewal Authority(URA). Before facing displacement in the coming future by URA, he also needs to put up with harassment from his landlord: from rent increase to forced eviction, since tenancy protection in Hong Kong is close to minimal. Any of such conditions could force him to close down his business.
From fixed to flexible contract and unlimited rent increase
Small shops need a stable contract so that they don’t have to move all the time. It is how they can establish their business networks in the community. When Jagpreet started his business at current location in 2012, 4 years fixed contract offered by his then landlord is one of the major consideration for him to settle here.
However, once his previous contract expired in May last year, when the shop was included as part of URA’s redevelopment project, landlord refused to offer any long term contract. Instead, landlord requested that the new contract will be fixed for the first year and flexible for the second year, meaning that Jagpreet could be evicted with as little as one month prior notice. Beside contractual change, Landlord also asked for rent increase from $9700 to $15000, which is a 50% increase rate.
Redevelopment leads to eviction?
Worst still, when fixed term end this May, Landlord immediately ask for 60% rent increase from $15000 to $25000. Within a year, the shop have face twice rent increase, which is unbearable and highly unaffordable for a small scale shop.
Landlord suggested that the ridiculous rent increase is legitimate because URA has recently increased the amount of compensation to tenants. In an act of extracting more profit from tenants which need the compensation to resettle during redevelopment by URA, landlords and URA have devastated the livelihood for many small businesses like Jagpreet’s.
Eviction as leverage for landlord shows there is no protection under current URA’s policy
Contrary to rumour that tenant could enjoy lucrative compensation immediately after URA initiated redevelopment, tenants could only received compensation when URA successfully acquired their contract and the properties, leaving them vulnerable to eviction and rent increase for years if landlords refuse sale of the properties.
Jagpreet tried to negotiate for a lower rent increase, explaining that he could not afford sky-high rent. Landlord later agreed on a 10% rent increase and accepted a month of new rent while clandestinely took Jagpreet to court. On 23rd June, 2016, Jagpreet suddenly received a summon from land tribunal, requesting his present in a hearing. First hearing was delayed last week till August because of landlord’s absence. However, uncertainty remains for Jagpreet’s business.
Jagpreet’s detriment is a result of lacking in protection for tenants under urban redevelopment. URA turned away Jagpreet when he requested assistance from them, warning that he will lost his identity as affected tenants and compensation when he leaves. Ironically, URA publicly announced days ago a new policy to protect business from eviction, claiming that it will protect tenants. When Jagpreet asked for help, none were given.
“Currently URA have adapted a rather arbitrary understanding of the word “eviction”” old district autonomy group comments. “Most tenants fell out of the protection that URA claimed they have under the new policy when facing eviction.” Jagpreet is situated in this loophole of the newly announced policy, which make people doubtful about it being more like a public relation campaign than protection that tenants under redevelopment and threat of eviction dreadfully need.
footnote 1：市建局董事會批准優化租客的相關政策：New policy from URA