Albert House owners threaten to go international in debt row

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 February, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 February, 2005, 12:00am

The Aberdeen flat owners hit with a $25 million court bill for a fatal canopy collapse in 1994 yesterday said they may take their case to an international level if the government fails to offer an acceptable aid package.

The Albert House owners issued the warning as more than 50 of them ended a protest in which they slept outside the Legislative Council building for 25 days.

An owners' representative, Alan Chan Yee-kim, said they would 'internationalise' the incident if the government did not agree to their demands for interest-free loans for an indefinite period with no means test.

But Mr Chan did not specify what action the flat owners might take.

The government has offered a Housing Society loan package of $200,000 for each owner, with the first $50,000 interest-free and the rest charged at the prime lending rate.

Owners are expected to repay more than $5,000 per month for three years. It is understood that many would be impoverished by the loans.

Legislator Wong Kwok-hing yesterday agreed that the package was 'unacceptable' and said he would contact Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa for help.

'I feel that the government does need some sense of crisis management on the issue. The government said its loan scheme was final. I don't think it should be,' he said.

Mr Wong said the government should accept the owners' demands, given that they would agree to their titles being frozen, with flat sales permitted only to repay loans.

Independent legislator Albert Cheng King-hon said the government should try to resolve the issue by the Lunar New Year.

The Court of First Instance ruled in November that the 88 flat owners had to pay an additional $25 million to landlord Aberdeen Winner Investment for their share of legal costs, interest and compensation arising from the 1994 collapse of a concrete canopy in which one person was killed and eight injured.