Rural strongman Leung Fuk-yuen, his brother and his Tai Tong Lychee Valley park were at the centre of a new land-use row yesterday after a court ordered the closure of a restaurant run by the park.
The restaurant, at the foot of a hill in Yuen Long where the park is located, is in violation of a land lease and the operators had ignored a government order to shut it down, Sha Tin Court heard.
The case follows controversy over Lychee Valley's 20-year occupation of part of Tai Lam Country Park, highlighted in an Audit Commission report that criticised the Development Bureau for lax enforcement of government land use.
Leung's company, his brother Leung San-fat - a co-owner of the land - and other owners Leung Chiu-fan, Leung Shui-chuen and Leung Tit-fu were convicted of not complying with a government enforcement notice. Principal Magistrate Andrew Ma Hon-cheung ordered them to remove the restaurant buildings despite a plea by their lawyer, Peter Wong Ting-kwong, that they be allowed to continue pending an appeal to the Town Planning Board.
The defendants - all absent - had pleaded guilty through Wong.
The court heard that the restaurant was still operating yesterday.
Wong said the board would hear an appeal application next month after an application to run a restaurant on the site was rejected last year. His clients did not want to demolish the structures and then rebuild if the application was approved.
But the magistrate said the only lawful course was to rectify the situation while waiting for the application result. "I am very concerned about this way of doing things," he said.
He urged the prosecution to closely monitor whether the restaurant would stop operating and whether illegal structures were removed, as this would affect sentencing set for next week.
Tai Tong Lychee Valley, of which Leung Fuk-yuen was one of two directors, was earlier found to be occupying 5,000 square metres of government land and was required to remove illegal structures.