Lawyer's bid to shut down MTR project backfires
The Court of First Instance has thrown out a man's attempt to halt construction of the new MTR South Island Line, branding it an abuse of process and ordering him to pay HK$95,000 in costs.
Wong Fuk-tim, a South Horizons resident and solicitor, claimed that the construction would lead to noise and dust pollution, and the influx of migrant workers from the mainland would affect his personal safety.
Wong argued the government had failed to protect the environment, properties and residents, and - together with the secretary for transport and housing and the secretary for financial services and the treasury - had failed to adequately monitor the MTR Corporation.
He said the rise in the annual number of deaths in the city, from 25,000 in 1987 to over 40,000 last year, was due to immigration from the mainland - one of several arguments which a sceptical Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon called 'totally irrelevant' in the September 23 hearing.
'The mainland Chinese cause harm to the public. There have been too many deaths. Deaths take place every day,' Wong said at the hearing.
'From 1988 to now, Hong Kong's population has also increased significantly,' Lam replied. 'Certainly there would be an increase in the number of deaths.'
In yesterday's judgment, Lam said: 'It is plain and obvious to this court that the plaintiff's claim has no proper basis in law and facts. As such, the action is an abuse of process and ought to be struck out accordingly.'
He said Wong should have applied for a judicial review. Instead, he made a private claim, reasoning that the decision to approve the line violated the government's duty not to harm him.
If he had sought a judicial review, the court would have considered whether the challenge had a chance of success before allowing it to go ahead, which Lam said was an important step in avoiding abuse of the courts. Moreover, judicial reviews normally have to be filed within three months of an event. The construction plans were gazetted in July 2009, which would make Wong's claim late.
The judge also noted that Wong should have voiced his concerns during public consultation on the South Island Line (East) from Admiralty to South Horizons. His complaints on the planned Sai Ying Pun to Wong Chuk Hang line could be heard at a future consultation.
The length, in kilometres, of the South Island Line (East)
- Its estimated cost is HK$12.6b
- It is due to be completed in 2015