Occupy Central

High Court rejects appeal bid against Occupy site clearance order

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 November, 2014, 3:37am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 November, 2014, 9:28pm

The High Court today refused to grant leave for protesters to appeal a court injunction that would allow bailiffs to clear sit-in sites in Mong Kok.

At a hearing, Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung ruled that the protesters’ case for an appeal was unsound. The judge also refused to delay the injunction.

On Monday, the High Court gave permission to police to assist bailiffs and make arrests in the event of physical resistance from protesters.

In their application for an appeal, lawyers for the protesters argued today that the court should not be addressing a question of public order through civil litigation.

They also said the plaintiff, a taxi drivers’ group, had failed to prove that it had suffered any “particular, direct and substantial” loss as a result of the protest that was over and above the inconvenience suffered by the general public.

They argued that the court should be astute in guarding against any abuse of its process by private individuals.

Judge Au found those points had been argued in earlier hearings and refused both applications.

Barrister Margaret Ng, for the protesters, said outside court that they would study the court decision before deciding on their next step.

She complained that both the court and the plaintiffs had failed to explain how the court order would be carried out.

"The order will affect a lot of people in the area. They should have the right to know details of the court order. Otherwise, it will be unfair,” Ng said.

Lawyer Phyllis Kwong Ka-yin, who represents a taxi drivers’ group that applied for the injunction, said they would publish a statement of the order in newspapers and inform the people at the protest sites before taking any action.

But it was hard to tell when they would start clearing the sites, she said.

Amid police preparations for a site clearance, a group of students planned to open a new front - by blocking roads near the British consulate in Admiralty.

Both protesters and the police are striving to ensure they do nothing that may see them lose legal or political credibility in the battle for the city's streets.

Kwong yesterday warned people not to help in the execution of the court order, otherwise they could face civil or even criminal liabilities.

"Members of the public who assist bailiffs may breach laws if, for example, they clash with someone else. They can be arrested for assault," Kwong said.

"That is why I would not encourage helping the bailiffs to enforce the injunction orders."

She said the removal of protest barricades could happen as early as tomorrow, pending a hearing on the injunctions today.

The injunctions' defendants are to request more time to prepare arguments against the orders and to ask that, in the meantime, the barricades not be cleared until their case is heard.

Bailiffs work only on weekdays, while police need time to clarify their role with the Department of Justice, hence the orders may not be executed until early next week.

Occupy protesters in Mong Kok said today they noticed unusual signs in police action this week and are getting themselves prepared.

Some have started moving vital resources such as helmets, blankets and sleeping bags to elsewhere such as parks nearby, said Man Ip, a fresh graduate in corporate communications who has been camping in Admiralty and Mong Kok.

"We will not give up [the occupied streets] unconditionally, and I believe that reoccupying will not be as easy as last time," said the 20-year-old.

In Admiralty, Occupy protesters at the Tim Mei Avenue entrance of Citic Tower, where one of the injunctions applied, said they would give the government "no excuse" to chase them out.

"We have moved barricades blocking this entrance to elsewhere ever since the injunction was put in place," a protester said. "Traffic to the entrance can be resumed at any time… technically, there will be no excuse for the authorities to disperse us."

Then there are other protesters who plan to take over Supreme Court Road, outside the British consulate, from 4pm on Friday next week, because they see the former colonial master as having failed to support Hongkongers' pursuit of democracy. The group of students said they wanted to pressure Britain, as a signatory to the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, to monitor the high degree of autonomy and democratic development promised to Hong Kong.

An event webpage has 50 people confirmed as attending. Booths at protest sites invited protesters to join the action with the message: "Keep calm and occupy British consulate." The consulate would not comment.

Meanwhile student leader Lester Shum said students would decide as soon as today whether to head to Beijing in the hope of taking their demands for democracy to state leaders.