Developer claims damages over protests at Mei Foo site
Hundreds of residents opposed to a high-rise residential project at Mei Foo Sun Chuen face a costly court battle after the developer filed a claim against them for more than HK$1.4 million and sought an injunction against further protests.
Billion Star Development said it had suffered losses as a result of the protests over the site northwest of Sham Shui Po and has asked for 'exemplary damages'. It is also seeking an injunction that will forbid protesters from approaching the construction site, arguing that their attempts to block access to the site have been unlawful.
The company has named six of the respondents - Sham Shui Po district councillor Wong Tak-chuen, who supported the protestors, campaign leader Yip Siu-chau and four Mei Foo residents, Lo Chung-cheong, Cheung Chi-yin, Lee Wai-kuen and Yu Wai-kan.
A seventh respondent is referred to only as 'others persons' who blocked the entrance of the site during this month's protests, when hundreds of residents from the large private housing estate next door, including many elderly people and retirees, lay across the street outside the construction site.
Lo said he had received Billion Star's writ on his birthday on Wednesday, describing it as the 'darkest birthday present' he had ever received. He said he was disappointed at the developer's action.
He said the residents had taken to the streets only because the developer had not kept an undertaking to inform them first before starting to work on the site.
Lo said Billion Star was trying to intimidate them. 'They are now bullying us with their wealth and power. It's unreasonable that they sue all the protesters.'
The residents would consult their lawyers before deciding whether to oppose the lawsuit or to settle the dispute with the developer, Yip said.
He said Mei Foo residents Lee and Yu had not been particularly outspoken in their actions and had never entered the site. 'They are suing whomever they can without any particular reasons,' he added.
The protesters are mostly Mei Foo residents opposed to a plan to turn the former LPG storage site into a high-rise development near their homes, and who fear it could lead to more such developments.
In March, residents tried to block trucks and workers from entering the site on several occasions. On March 14, some residents entered the site. The conflicts escalated on April 3, when 1,000 people blocked the entrance to the construction site in protest at the development. The Development Bureau issued a statement at the time saying it had no reason to interfere in a lawful project.
Billion Star said in the writ that delays in the project had cost it HK$1.4 million. It would also have to spend Hk$17,600 a month on security guards to protect the site.
It accused the residents of unlawful trespassing and said their protests were conducted 'in a highly sensational and high-profile manner so as to attract maximum media attention and to exert maximum pressure' on them to drop the project.
Billion Star asserted its presence at the site yesterday morning by sending some workers to rearrange concrete blocks loaded on a truck outside, where it has been parked since residents prevented it from entering on March 14.
Billion Star was not available for comment yesterday.