Church sued over packed services
The owners of a North Point building are suing a church for cramming too many worshippers in, amid fears it could render an insurance policy invalid, court documents show.
The Incorporated Owners of the China United Centre claims Hong Kong Mandarin Bible Church squeezed as many as 121 people into three offices measuring 240 square metres on Sunday. On another floor of the building owned by the church up to 179 people were in a 667-squaremetre space. In a writ filed with the High Court, the owners' corporation claims the capacity of the three offices was 27 people, while only 74 should have been allowed onto the other floor.
In response, the church said it was "committed to complying with relevant laws and regulations" but did not agree with the calculation of the capacity and would "present our case … for a fair and just determination".
The owners acted after building manager Prosperity Land Estate Management took out insurance for accidental injuries or property damage. The policy would be invalid if the management failed to take "reasonable precautions" to ensure legal obligations were complied with.
The owners cite the code of practice on fire safety, which states that there should be no more than one person for every nine square metres of space in an office. The two areas used by the church were identified as office space in the building's deeds.
"The defendant's act or conduct … was in contravention of the code" and could render the insurance void, it adds.
The church had not acted despite reminders, a legal letter and an offer to pay to hold services elsewhere until safety matters were resolved, the writ says.
The court is being asked to issue an injunction to stop the church exceeding its capacity.
The church's website described it as a non-denominational Christian fellowship founded in 1995 to cater for Putonghua speakers. The website says that by 2010, 570 people were gathering for church services.