The Tenant From Hell

This story appears in Sing Tao.  The printed version contains more sections.

For the general background, families who live in public housing estates in Hong Kong have to abide by the rules and regulations of the Housing Department.  There is a point scoring evaluation system, whereby penalty points are given against illegal activities such as littering and spitting in public areas, throwing objects out of the window onto the street, keeping pets, setting off fires in the stairwell, destruction of property, and so on.  When a family accumulates 16 or more points within a two-year period, an eviction notice will be served.  The family may file an appeal at that point.

For the specific background, this is a person named Yuen living in the Yau Oi Estates in the Tuen Mun district, Hong Kong.  In 2000, Yuen threw a bicycle out his window down the street.  He was arrested, prosecuted, convicted and fined HK$500.  In 2001, Yuen threw a glass bottle out his window down the street.  He was arrested, prosecuted, convicted and spent one month in jail.  In October 2003, there was another incident when a grinding stone came down and seriously injured a 4-year-old girl.  Yuen was arrested by the police, but later released due to lack of proof.  In January 2004, Yuen threw three wine bottles out of his window down on the street.  He was arrested, prosecuted, convicted and spent four months in jail.

The Mad Thrower of Tuen Mun

What do the neighbors think?  Over the years, they think that he was a 'time bomb waiting to go off' and avoided him whenever possible.  One resident compared Yuen's actions to "the Japanese occupation of China."

According to a neighbor named Chan, Yuen had been living there fore more than a decade and he is decidedly strange.  Now and then, he bangs on the walls at 2am or 3am, and he also turn up the volume on his audio-visual equipment to harrass the neighbors.  Some neighbors even suspect that Yuen was responsible for the malfunctioning in the elevators.  Chan said, "If a neighor has a baby, she will try to keep the baby from crying because Yuen might come to curse her out."

According to a resident, the Housing Department had to assign two security guards to sit right outside his door two years ago, but his behavior never improved.  Finally, fourteen of Yuen's neighbors got together and signed a joint petition to the Housing Department and asked for Yuen to be kicked out.  Surprisingly, after discussion with Yuen, the Housing Department transfered him to a unit on the highest floor (25th) in the same building.

Why did the Housing Department decide to move him?  Doesn't this mean that his aerial missiles will become even more lethal from a greater height?  You are going to have to give the Housing Department a bit more credit.  In the photo below, you can see that an array of surveillance cameras have been installed in the building across the street.  Presumably, putting him on the 25th floor makes sure they get the closest look possible.

Now we come to the current problem of Yuen.  You will recall that he threw 3 wine bottles down the street in January 2004, and that cost him seven penalty points.  Twice in 2004, he was caught with littering and that cost him five points each time.  At seventeen points in total, he had exceeded the threshold of sixteen points within a two-year period.  Accordingly, the Housing Department has sent him an eviction notice.

In accordance with the law, Yuen appeared to appeal the eviction order.  In court, he was actually an articulate and seemingly reasonable person.  One of his arguments is that he had already served four months in jail for throwing the wine bottles; therefore, fining him seven points would be 'double jeopardy.'  If he believes that these two penalties are mutually exclusive, would the trial judge allow him to trade seven Housing Department penalty points in return for not going to jail?  No such thing.

Next, Yuen pointed out that there had two previous instances in which other families had accumulated more than 16 points but were reprieved upon appeal.  Therefore, he too must be entitled to one as well.  "You have established a precedent and so there can be a second time.  Why give them a chance but not me?  This is a failed system and must be destroyed without mercy!"  But if those two previous families were unsuccessful, Yuen would not be using this line of logic, would he?  He wouldn't plea for his automatic conviction given the precedents, would he?

Finally, Yuen's ultimate argument is the one that made the Sing Tao headline: 屯 門 擲 物 狂 ﹕ 無 屋 住 倫 常 變 (translation) The Mad Thrower of Tuen Mun: No Housing Leads To Abnormal Outcome.  To be more precise, he said: "事件肯定對家人有影響,帶出更多社會問題,就像天水圍(慘劇)一樣" (translation) "This will definitely affect my family and lead to more social problems, like Tin Shui Wai."  The reference to Tin Shui Wai is about the tragedy in which an abusive husband killed his wife and two daughters and then committed suicide afterwards.  This is effectively a thinly veiled threat.

If Yuen is a 'ticking time bomb', then moving him out of the Oi Yau Estates will only mean that he becomes someone else's problem.  He is unemployed and living on social welfare.  If no one will rent to him, he says that he could move into the Henry G. Leong Community Center; besides, there are many pedestrian bridges under which he can sleep.