In April 2006 the Social Welfare Department signed the first service contract with International Social Service (ISS-HK) to ensure, among other objectives, that refugees during their stay in Hong Kong, “would not be left to sleep in the street”.
[Note: HKSAR refuses to make public contracts between SWD and ISS. From 2006 to 2013 SWD subvented ISS-HK with hundreds of millions of dollars. Details for 2012 are available in these SWD-ISS Service Specifications. On 28 Sep 2012 ISS-HK signed a contract worth HK$ 396,877,881 – including HK$ 40,000,000 in salaries, to be explored in an upcoming blog]
In April 2006 the Government announced the “Voluntary surrender of pig farm licenses”. This incentive scheme encouraged pig famers to surrender their licenses voluntarily and cease pig farming to reduce associated public health and environmental pollution problems. At that time local farms supplied markets with 20% of fresh pork, a quantity later replaced by imports from the Mainland.
The ex-gratia payment to the pig industry was budgeted at HK$ 941,700,000 (min. HK$ 450,000 and max. HK$ 25,450,000) to close down pig sheds and surrendered licenses. As a corollary the Government introduced legislation to stop the issue of new licenses and froze the rearing capacity of those not joining the scheme. In brief, pig farming stopped and sheds lay empty.
For a while the farmers were content with the pay-outs, but they soon looked upon empty sheds and wondered how to redevelop them profitably. Most remain abandoned to this day, though a few unscrupulous landlords turned animal farms into refugee ghettos. It is unclear how the conspiracy started, though there is evidence that ISS pushed refugees to the farmers in 2007.
Vision First is investigating numerous violations of several ordinances. Chief among our concerns are violations of Section 25 of the Building Ordinance which specifies land use. With regard to breaches of Section 25, the penalties are defined in Section 40 as a level 5 fine (50,000$ per offence) and imprisonment for one year. More critically, the Government may impose an encumbrance, impairing the transfer and lessening the value of the land.
There is no excuse for conspiring with pig farmers to settle refugees illegally.