Godson of calligraphy master prepares for court battle over flat

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 4:45am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 4:45am

The furious godson of a late calligraphy master has vowed to fight to keep the flat he bought from his godfather 17 years ago out of the hands of a jailed lawyer.

The family of barrister Wong Kwai-sang - who is behind bars for using a false will in an effort to claim the estate of calligrapher and actor Au Shu-cham - has issued a writ against Cheung Wai-ming claiming adverse possession of the flat.

Wong, 51, his sister, Wong Choi-chuk, and his mother, Cheng Lai-chun, are claiming the 495 sq ft flat in Western on the grounds that the sister had been allowed to live there rent-free for more than the 12 years required to make a claim, while Cheung had never lived there.

The case, lodged a month after Au died in July 2009, starts in the Court of First Instance today.

"I am still furious about this," Cheung said, alleging that the sister had received free calligraphy lessons as well as accommodation. "How could they return Au's kindness by enmity?"

He said the flat in Sai Yuen Lane - for which he paid HK$1 million in 1997 - was in an area popular with developers and was now worth millions.

Cheung, who emigrated to Ireland 20 years ago, left his business in Dublin to give evidence against Wong Kwai-sang.

Wong received a 4½-year jail term in the District Court last month after being convicted of nine charges: three of using a forged will that purported to leave the flat to his sister, one of making a false statement under oath, and six counts of theft involving HK$15,400 taken from a joint bank account held by Au and Cheung.

Cheung told the court that he bought the flat from Au in 1997 after an attempt by the Wong family to have Au sign over all his property to them for HK$1. But Au refused to sign after learning the details of the legal papers.

"My godfather was a very generous man. He always wanted to help people in need and never expected anything in return," Cheung told the Post.

"He was very benevolent. When he saw poor people, he would take them as pupils, expecting them to learn some skill from him in the hope that it could help them find better jobs."

He said Au, who died at the age of 75 in 2009, came from a wealthy family from whom he inherited an estate that included the flat.

Au studied design at the Hong Kong Polytechnic, now the Polytechnic University, and worked for TVB as a stage property and set designer. He played some minor film and television roles before he started teaching Chinese calligraphy in the '80s.

He said Choi-chuk became a pupil and shared the flat with Au from 1986 until 2008.

Cheung said that when he bought the flat, he told Au he could live there until he died and gave him a living allowance of HK$5,000 a month.

"Before, I did not care much about the flat. I only wanted to see my godfather live there happily." Now, he said, he would fight to the end. "I cannot tolerate this injustice."