Mei Foo residents defy developer's lawsuit and plan more protests

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2011, 12:00am
 

Mei Foo residents opposing a high-rise project near their homes say they are not deterred by a lawsuit launched by the developer and will further challenge it by staging more protests in the coming week.

They said yesterday an injunction being sought by Billion Star Development, which they believed was backed by New World Development, to prevent them from approaching the construction site in Mei Foo Sun Chuen amounted to 'an attempt to oppress freedom of speech and assembly'.

At a rally on a private road outside the construction site - the very spot the injunction covers - district councillor Wong Tak-chuen, named as the first respondent in the developer's action, said the April 3 lie-down protest by 500 people was lawful.

'We had notified the police before staging the protest. It is terrifying that the developer wanted to suppress our right to voice our complaints,' he said, adding that he and other defendants did not qualify for legal aid and would probably defend themselves.

About 100 residents turned up in support, saying they were all the 'seventh defendant' and would go to the court hearing on Friday.

Billion Star, while naming Wong and five residents - three retired teachers, a design teacher and a pastor - as the first six respondents in a suit filed last week, referred to the seventh as 'other persons' entering the construction site or blocking the entrance to it, including hundreds of people who have lain across the street outside in protest, whose names are yet unknown.

The developer is claiming HK$1.4 million for losses due to delays in construction of the 20-storey block and a monthly rate of HK$17,600 for additional security, and seeking an injunction against further protests.

Alex Chan Chun-pong, who lives in Mei Foo Phase 8 and is among those identifying themselves as the seventh respondent, said he would show up in court and defend his right to put up resistance.

'We have paid for the maintenance and management of this road leading to the public park for years before the management company sold it to the developer without our consent,' Chan said.

'We are against not only the high-rise but also taking away our path.'

Residents said they were going to stage a protest against New World Development at a land auction on Wednesday, and another at a Mong Kok jewellery shop under the Chow Tai Fook Group, owned by Cheng Yu-tung, who is also chairman of New World Development.

A spokeswoman for New World declined to comment yesterday.

The residents have been planning a judicial review against the Buildings Department's decision to approve the high-rise project, which they say is unlawfully utilising unused development rights from Mei Foo Phase 8. The review case would be initiated by a resident who is applying for legal aid and an application should be filed this week.

Barrister Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a Civic Party lawmaker, said residents could ask the court to consolidate the judicial review case and the developer's case into one, because the legality of the high-rise project was at stake.

Tong also said the developer first had to identify the seventh respondent and issue summonses before starting the legal procedures.

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