Socialite Chau seeks review of order to quit land

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 July, 2012, 12:00am


Socialite and barrister Brenda Chau Tam Yuet-ching applied yesterday for permission to mount a judicial review of a government decision to cancel her licences to two exclusive sites near a country park in Sai Kung she has used for more than 20 years.

Chau, the widow of flamboyant fellow lawyer Kai-bong Chau, launched the legal action after the Lands Department gave her a deadline of May 23 to cease occupation of the 3,700 square metres of land near Ma On Shan Country Park.

She was told to quit the sites in March after failing to comply with an order to remove structures erected in breach of licence conditions and for occupying adjacent government land. She is asking the court to quash the Lands Department's decision, which she called rash and unfair.

Mr Justice Au Hing-cheung, of Court of First Instance, reserved his judgment.

To obtain leave to lodge a review, Chau's lawyer had to persuade the court that her complaint fell within the scope of public law and therefore could be reviewed by the court.

Opposing the application, Johnny Mok SC, for the department, said the economic dispute between the licensor and the licensee was a private legal matter and could not be dealt with by way of a judicial review.

He added that there were no factual disputes as to whether Chau had breached the terms of the licence by trespassing on government land and putting up unauthorised structures and therefore no issues for the court to make a judgment on.

Mok also pointed out that Chau had tried unsuccessfully to obtain from the High Court an injunction against the department.

But Philip Dykes SC, for Chau, citing a precedent, said that if the enforcement of land resumption involved sufficient public law elements then the matter would amenable to a judicial review.

According to court documents, Chau was granted the licence in 1988. In early February, a site inspection by the department found that illegal structures including brickwork, a pond and a bridge had been built. Some government land was also illegally occupied.

Chau said in submissions to the court that the breaches occurred out of necessity, while the illegal occupation of government land was attributed to mistakes made by a government surveyor. She said she made all necessary rectifications but only after the deadline and after she was told her licences were cancelled.