Members of Occupy Central, camped in open space beneath HSBC headquarters since last October, remained defiant yesterday in the face of possible legal action to remove them.
The anti-bank campaigners said they had no plans to leave the plaza and described HSBC's arguments in its application to the High Court to reclaim the space as unreasonable.
In a writ filed on Friday and made available yesterday, the bank asked the High Court to order that it is entitled to recover possession of the plaza because the campers have occupied the place without its consent.
Named in the writ are four defendants: 'occupiers of the ground floor of 1 Queen's Road Central', Mui Kai-ming - brother of late Canto-pop diva Anita Mui Yim-fong - Wong Chung-hang and Ho Yiu-shing. The legal action came after the bank posted a note late last month inviting the protesters to end their eight-month occupation.
The bank asks the court to specify a time and a date for it to reclaim the plaza. It also seeks permission to provide information about the application to the occupiers. People wanting copies would have to show their identity cards to bank staff
A 15-minute session is reserved for the application on July 16 before Master Katherine Lo Kit-yee.
The plaza is the bank's private property but it was designated a public passage in an agreement with the government in 1983.
In a statement submitted to the court, the bank said the occupation posed 'a number of safety issues over which the plaintiff has limited control'. Hygiene was deteriorating and members of the public might feel uncomfortable in the area, it said.
But occupier Leung Wing-lai said it was unreasonable for the bank to raise these concerns now. 'The number of occupiers has dropped significantly. Now it's actually easier for us to manage. If they're talking about hygiene issues, they should have been more concerned at the beginning of the occupation.'
Ho said he hoped the bank would allow occupiers to at least retain some space in the plaza.
Mui said he had erected a wire hut in the plaza in August in protest against the refusal by the bank - trustee and executor of his sister's HK$1.5 billion estate - to pass the money to his mother.
'It is a public space. The bank has no right to order us to leave. It can't do that,' Mui said, adding that he was thinking of filing a counterclaim.
Occupy Central participants issued a statement last week saying they would not leave. About 20 tents were still in the space yesterday afternoon, but they were largely empty.