Worried families may seek judicial review in urn site legal row

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 December, 2010, 12:00am

Some families, worried about government actions against columbariums where they have bought urn niches, are considering legal action in a bid to ensure the sites keep operating.

The Urn Consumers' Rights Concern Group yesterday threatened to take the government to court for failing to regulate the operation of the columbariums for years and then suddenly announcing some of them may be unlawful.

The government announced this month that operators of 52 columbariums had breached land leases or planning rules or were occupying government sites.

The consumer group's convenor, Ting Tsz-yu, bought an urn niche for more than HK$50,000 at a Tai Po temple for his father who died early this year. The temple told Ting it was among the 52 columbariums targeted by the government.

The temple is applying for rezoning. 'My father's ashes have been placed in the columbarium. What should we do if the application is rejected?' said Ting, one of five people protesting yesterday at the Central Government Offices. 'Many of these private columbariums have existed for 10, 20 years or even longer. All along, the government did not mention anything about their lawfulness, leading the public to believe they were operating legally.

'Unless the government relaxes the land use requirement or makes arrangements for the families to relocate their urns, we will not rule out seeking a judicial review.'

Ting said he was now trying to mobilise families through the internet to join the concern group. So far, about 50 families have contacted him.

He said the severe shortage of public columbariums had forced many families like his to resort to private ones.

Ting's colleague, Edward Lee Chi-shing, who attended yesterday's protest, bought two urn niches in a Fanling temple 15 years ago for his parents for HK$100,000. Lee learned that the columbarium might have breached the government rules. 'The operator refused to confirm the lawfulness of the columbarium,' he said.

Ting, who works for the Democratic Party, said the protest was organised in a personal capacity.