Columbarium firms to take blacklist to court

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 December, 2010, 12:00am

A group of private columbarium operators is set to start a legal battle with the government after the expected release today of lists naming qualified operators and those of doubtful legality.

The two lists were compiled by the Development Bureau to help consumers identify trustworthy operators amid the proliferation of private funeral urn storage facilities.

The first will list private columbarium operators that comply with land leases as well as statutory land and town planning requirements. The other will list those that do not.

Operators on both lists will have to meet licensing conditions yet to be spelled out by the government or face the prospect of being shut down.

A group formed by more than 20 private columbariums on the warning list said yesterday that they would seek a judicial review once the government released the lists. Eight of them, including Memorial Park Hong Kong and The Shrine, had earlier received notices from the bureau saying they were on that list.

'This is very unfair, they are steamrollering the industry,' said group spokesman Gilbert Leung Kam-ho, vice-chairman of the Columbarium Merchants Association and executive director of Memorial Park Hong Kong.

'We have legal disagreements with the government's town planning requirements and land lease conditions. The government has been unwilling to take the disagreements to court, so we'll have to take the initiative and let the court judge.'

The group had opposed the preparation of the two lists and urged a mechanism under which it could file appeals against the listing, but its views were rejected by the bureau.

The bureau is also expected today to announce more sites selected for building columbariums to ease a shortage of space for funeral urns.

The selections are in five districts - Central and Western, Wan Chai, Yau Tsim Mong, Kwun Tong and Sham Shui Po - and consultations are expected to be held with district residents.

The government suggested 12 sites in seven other districts in July.