Li Ka-shing's flagship Cheung Kong asks court to drive out strikers
Now, Li Ka-shing empire applies for an injunction - the second in less than a month - to clear its headquarters of protesting dockers
Austin Chiu, Phila Siu and Johnny Tam
Tycoon Li Ka-shing's flagship Cheung Kong company dealt a blow to striking dockers yesterday, seeking an injunction in the High Court to keep them away from its headquarters in Central.
Mr Justice Derek Pang Wai-cheong, sitting in the Court of First Instance, said he would not hear the application in the absence of the demonstrators because it involved a constitutional right to demonstrate and freedom of expression.
"My question is what the urgency of this application is. I walked past twice this week and I found things to be peaceful," Pang said of a site outside the Cheung Kong Center where the strikers set up base on April 17 after being barred from Kwai Tsing Container Terminals.
The judge adjourned the hearing to next Friday.
Walkout organiser and unionist lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said Cheung Kong - whose subsidiary Hutchison Whampoa is the parent company of dock operator Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) - was cracking down on their freedom of expression.
"This is outrageous … We have been expressing our views peacefully here," Lee said, adding that the strikers would stay put.
Hutchison Whampoa said the strikers' actions were not peaceful any more. For example, it said, some supporters stormed the headquarters on Wednesday, causing a nuisance to people who worked inside.
The court action marks the second time the 450 strikers are facing an injunction, after HIT succeeded on April 1 in forcing them out of Kwai Tsing, where they had been on strike since March 28 to demand better pay and work conditions.
Cheung Kong, through another subsidiary Turbo Top, filed a writ with the High Court, naming, along with Lee, Union of Hong Kong Dockers members Ho Wai-hong, Chan Ka-kui, Wong Yu-loy, Mung Siu-tat and "persons forming a group of demonstrators" .
It is seeking an injunction to restrain the defendants from "entering into, occupying, remaining at or in any way trespassing in" the Cheung Kong Center and certain areas surrounding it.
It asks that the defendants be barred from interfering with, obstructing or causing nuisance to it or its tenants and visitors' property, and their rights of way over the public and private roads leading to and within the site.
The writ also asks for compensation for nuisance and trespass committed by the defendants.
The Lands Department said the occupied areas were private property but designated as public open space. The property owners must allow the public to enter and use the space legally.
In the morning, about 300 strikers staged a two-hour slow march outside the terminals. More than 100 vehicles were stuck along Container Port Road South. Police said they would seek advice from the Department of Justice on whether anyone had to take responsibility.