Residents drop opposition to Mei Foo project

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2011, 12:00am


Six protesters, who object to the construction of a high-rise tower block development in Mei Foo Sun Chuen, agreed to be bound by an injunction sought by the developer.

Outgoing district councillor Wong Tak-chuen and five Mei Foo residents, who took part in a lie-down protest that drew 500 people in April, consented last week not to prevent Billion Star Development from carrying out construction on a proposed 20-storey block in the estate.

The six were due to appear in the Court of First Instance yesterday to respond to an injunction sought by the developer.

Billion Star, which residents believe is backed by New World Development, also seeks to prevent other unnamed protesters and three politicians from interfering with its right to use the access road to the site, the last remaining plot space at the housing estate in Lai Chi Kok, Kowloon.

Residents oppose the project because they say it will block air flow and sunlight. In a separate case, they argue the developer does not have full ownership of the site.

The five residents are Yip Siu-chau, a retired teacher, Lo Chung-cheong, a design teacher, Cheung Chi-yin, a merchant, Yu Wai-kan, a pastor, and Lee Wai-kuen.

They said they bowed to the developer because they were worried about the tremendous legal costs arising from litigation.

The developer said the group formed a human barricade to block the only access road leading to the construction site, stopping its trucks from getting in or out, a number of times since March.

Councillor Wong told the South China Morning Post that he and the other defendants decided to settle with the developer because of money pressure. 'Some of us and also other Mei Foo residents are worried we will lose in the end and have to pay the legal costs,' he said. 'It's all about money. If you don't have money, you can't fight this game.'

Residents were pessimistic, he said, because they earlier lost a judicial review, in which they argued the tower Billion Star planned to build was illegal. They were seeking an appeal in that case.

While agreeing to be bound by the injunction, the six did not consent to paying the HK$1.4 million the developer claims it lost due to delays in construction.

The backdown by the councillor and the residents left lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, also known as 'Long Hair', Claudia Mo Man-ching and Tsang Kin-shing as defendants in the injunction hearing.

The three became involved after claiming they took part in the protest. Leung and Mo argued the injunction was an attempt to smother freedom of speech, assembly and rally.

But Benjamin Yu SC, for the developer, said: 'This is not a case of freedom of assembly or freedom of speech.

'People exercising such freedom cannot go to the extent of stopping [the owner] from doing some lawful activities [on its land].

'The rally was not lodged peacefully,' Yu said.

Referring to the three politicians, Yu said: 'They are not residents of Mei Foo. They don't have right of way. Even if they have right of way, it's not a right to obstruct our right to use our property.'

Leung said the lie-down protest on April 3 lasted for only three minutes and was approved by police, meaning it was lawful. He said no one from the developer's office stopped them or called the police that day.

He said he participated in the rally to respond to grievances voiced by the residents, thus fulfilling his duty as a lawmaker.

Mo said she was 'completely baffled' by the injunction sought by the developer. She said shop owners would not seek injunctions against people who took part in the annual July 1 march on the grounds that they obstructed their business.

Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung reserved his ruling. A written judgment will be handed down later at a later date.