Warring judo factions to fight it out in court

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 July, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 July, 1993, 12:00am

THE power struggle within the Hongkong Judo Association looks certain to escalate into an all-out legal battle if tonight's extraordinary general meeting called by a rebel group goes ahead.

On the eve of the showdown, both sides threatened court action as Hongkong's judo community braced itself for the second major rift in eight years.

The countdown began yesterday with a statement from the association saying they will sue for damages if the rebel meeting is held. They have branded it illegal.

The association also announced that it would call its own EGM to prove beyond doubt that they have the majority support of the Hongkong judo community.

But the rebels countered that they had the support of 29 of the territory's 52 member clubs and that they, too, would be going to court tomorrow - to seek an injunction to evict opposition officials from the sport's Queen Elizabeth Stadium headquarters.

The rebels, led by former association chairman Cyril Wong Siu-ming, formed their own hierarchy under the association banner after some of them were banned from seeking election to committee positions at the annual meeting on June 20.

That meeting ended in chaos with rival factions holding separate elections resulting in two executive committees and the rebels' call for an EGM.

Yesterday's statement from the executive committee of the association, led by chairman Henry Shing Yuen-hing, said: ''This association is consulting its legal advisers with a view to taking the appropriate course of action for damages after looking intoall the facts.

''A formal EGM is now being arranged by this association to show that our executive committee is supported by the majority of the association member clubs.'' Shing said he was confident the rebels would fail with their court proceedings.

''We don't have anything to worry about. The other group were not selected legally. We have already been recognised by the Amateur Sports Federation and Olympic Committee. Nobody said that we weren't recognised.'' The crisis is almost a repeat of events in 1985 which saw Wong first take control of the association, prompting the formation of a breakaway group which later became the Hongkong Judo Federation.

At the time, Wong was accused by the rebels of breaching the constitution to seize the chairmanship, a position he held until 1989.

However, the ASF & OC continued to support the association, leaving the federation to raise its own funds and effectively barring federation club members from representing Hongkong.

Last night federation committee member John Thomson, who led the breakaway along with president Ugo Conta, said he was puzzled by ASF & OC chairman A. de O. Sales' decision to back the incumbent association leaders.

''There is a sense of deja vu,'' said Thomson. ''But what we can't understand is that in 1985 when Wong took power, Sales ruled in his favour and against the incumbent leaders.

''This time, he has ruled with the incumbent officials when the events are almost the same.'' The latest rift has already placed a financial burden on the sport with the Government's funding body, the SDB, refusing applications for grants.

The SDB continues to pay for the association's two office staff and expenses, but will not entertain cash applications for programmes unless the ASF & OC provides written confirmation of their support for the association.

Sales has already said that he will not provide any written confirmation because, as far as he was concerned, the incumbent leaders had never lost his support and he had already verbally informed the SDB of his stance.

Meanwhile, rebel secretary Lui Hon-wah said last night: ''The EGM will go ahead, at which we expect to be recognised as the ruling body.

''We want the last treasurer to hand over all the accounts of the association, as well as the headquarters.

''We are fighting this case in court and we are confident of winning a court order to have them removed.'' Sales said he could not comment on the court proceedings.