Name-and-shame ashes campaign sparks lawsuit

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 April, 2011, 12:00am


The operators of a temple caught in government attempts to curb the illegal provision of niches for the ashes of the dead are being sued for reneging on a deal to build an extension to the property.

The action against the Tsz Tak Benevolent Society, which runs the temple in Yau Tong, and temple keeper Chiu Kam-cheung, is being taken by property investor Yu Xiaoyan, who yesterday filed a High Court writ alleging breach of contract.

The temple operators pledged not to sell niches after the government moved to name and shame private columbarium operators - businesses who offer niches - that breached planning and land use rules.

Chiu could not be reached yesterday. However, a member of staff said the society did not offer niches for sale and was purely a place of worship. The member of staff declined to say whether the ancestral hall was built to house human ashes.

According to the statement of claim, the temple entered into an agreement with Yu in March last year and allegedly retracted from the agreement in August last year - four months after the Food and Health Bureau said it would release a list of properly run private columbariums and a month after the government staged a consultation on the issue.

The temple would not say if it stalled on a plan to run a columbarium because of the measures.

Yu alleged in the court document that, on August 24 last year, the temple falsely made declaration in a Chinese-language newspaper that the temple did not offer urn niches for sale. Yu further alleges that the newspaper statement said Yu was one of the people behind that claim.

Yu said she did not issue the declaration with the temple, and that she had been barred from entering the temple since August last year.

According to the writ, Yu invested more than HK$7.7 million in the construction and maintenance of slopes and footpaths.

Under the agreement, 65 per cent of the temple's income would go to Yu in return for her investment. The rest would go to the temple.