Court challenge 'misconceived'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 April, 2005, 12:00am

A legal challenge by a little known cultural group to the huge West Kowloon Cultural District project was misconceived, the Court of First Instance heard yesterday.

The group was challenging the makeup of the government-appointed committees responsible for overseeing the implementation of the project.

Government counsel Nicholas Cooney told the court the government opposed the granting of permission for the cultural group to launch a judicial review.

The group, the Association of Chinese Authors and Publishers in Hong Kong and Macau, is questioning the government's decision not to include the Arts Development Council on the project's Steering Committee or Proposal Evaluation Committee.

Mr Cooney said the group had no arguable case.

In its application for mounting a judicial review, the group contended that the Arts Development Council had a legal obligation to serve on both committees.

The group also argued the chief executive had a legal obligation under the Basic Law and the Arts Development Council Ordinance to place representatives on both committees. It was irrational for the Arts Development Council not to be included on the committees, given its role in promoting arts and culture, the group said.

Mr Cooney told the court that while the council had certain obligations under law to promote arts and culture, it ought to have the discretion to decide whether or not to join the committees. It was not stated in the ordinance that the council was obliged to join them.

He said the council could air its views about the cultural project through other channels, such as the public consultation that was now under way.

A solicitor for the Arts Development Council, which was named a co-defendant, was present in court to observe the proceedings.

The court was told that the committees, made up of government officials, were administrative arms of the government. The Proposal Evaluation Committee will assess the bids by private developers, looking at the technical, operational and financial aspects of each proposal. It will then make its recommendation and the final decision on the winning bid rests with the Chief Executive in Council.

Mr Justice Michael Hartmann will hand down his decision on Monday.