Villager and developer go to mediation
A villager who lost his hut in a fire while fighting a developer over ownership of a plot of land in Yuen Long agreed yesterday to try to settle the matter out of court.
Yu Siu-cheuk, 80, said he had been living in the hut in Tong Yan San Tsuen for 20 years and should be considered the land owner. He agreed to try settling the dispute with Realray Investments, a New World Group subsidiary, through mediation.
The dispute arose from Yu's claim to 7,000 sq ft of land when Realray became the registered owner on February 7, 2007. Yu argued that he had been living on the plot since 1979, more than the required 20 years under the Limitation Ordinance, but the developer said he started occupying the land in 1995.
The Court of First Instance found in favour of the developer in April 2009, but Yu secured the retrial on appeal seven months later.
Yu's lawyer, Erik Shum, said the developer had suggested that Yu did not occupy the land until 1995 because that was the year he installed electricity and water meters for the hut.
Shum said this assumption was wrong, with aerial photos taken by government helicopters showing that there had been human activity on the land - including cultivation, and erection of building structures and fences - since the 1980s. The developer did not dispute this, but questioned whether the activities had been conducted by Yu.
Mr Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor said: 'It seems to me that there is objective evidence not capable of being disputed by the [developer].'
The judge asked who other than Yu would have been occupying the land. He urged both sides to consider trying to settle the dispute outside court, instead of going through with the retrial.
The case was adjourned to today pending the result of mediation.
Shum agreed with the judge's recommendation, saying: 'I have always said that this case should be settled to allow my client security in his remaining years. He is 80 years old now. He needs a place to stay.'
Outside court, Shum said police had not determined the cause of the fire at Yu's hut on March 10 last year. The blaze also burned down two pig pens in which Yu kept 70 cats, 50 dogs and a monkey.
Other villagers helped Yu raise HK$2,000 and he used the money to rebuild one of the pig pens. He is now living at a storehouse near the burned-out hut.
Lawyers for the developer earlier blasted Yu's statement on the fire as 'scandalous innuendo'.