Hong Kong court orders elderly woman to leave Fanling site she says she has lived in for almost 70 years

District Court judge finds in favour of Henderson Land subsidiary which says it leased land to woman’s family in 2004

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 August, 2016, 8:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 August, 2016, 8:00am

An elderly widowed woman was ordered to leave land in Fanling where she has lived since 1948, after the District Court sided with a Henderson Land subsidiary in finding there was no evidence to support her claim that her occupation was legal.

The case centred on a Fanling lot acquired by Best Galaxy in 2004, when it was leased to Kwan Ping, who died in 2011, for HK$1,800 a year.

The land had a rateable value of up to HK$240,000 per year, according to counsel Felix Ng for the developer.

The court heard that Best Galaxy gave Kwan six months’ notice for his family to move out by 17 August, 2011, but they did not comply. Annual rent was only paid up to August 17, 2007, with two subsequent payments in April 2009 and August 2014.

Best Galaxy claimed vacant possession of the land for a second time in 2014 so it could take part in land exchange negotiations when the government announced its plan to develop parts of the northeast New Territories.

But Kwan’s family said they rented the land in or about 1948, with the promise that they could occupy it for as long as they wanted and purchase it through a pre-emptive right. The duration of the tenancy was therefore binding on their successors until the government grant expired, they argued.

Enzo Chow, for Kwan’s wife, further argued that Best Galaxy had promised that they could continue to occupy the land for the same amount on condition that they return 360 square feet so the developer could exchange land with the government.

But deputy District Court judge Josephine Chow Pok-fun found there was no “believable evidence” to suggest that the lease was still valid.

She also said the alleged promise was a mere negotiation that never proceeded, and there was no evidence that the family did surrender parts of the land.

“[Kwan’s wife] remains a trespasser since the termination of the tenancy with the wishful thinking that she could possess the land by whatever means or at least for as long as she could,” the judge said.

Kwan’s wife was therefore ordered to move out and pay damages – to be assessed – as well as foot part of Best Galaxy’s legal bill.