A father must compensate his doctor son with HK$500,000 for putting up defamatory posters in what a High Court judge described as a "bitter litigation".
Lam Sing-yin, 72, put up the posters near his son Dr Lam Chuen-lung's clinic and at MTR stations close to his grandchildren's schools, accusing the son of cheating him out of money and property. The court found that the doctor had not cheated his father and the posters were therefore defamatory.
"Unfortunately, the stubbornness and inflexibility of both the [son] and the [father] have fuelled the ongoing litigation between them, which is continuing to hurt the relationships within the family," Deputy Judge David Lok wrote in his judgment.
The family row began when the younger Lam bought three shops at Sceneway Garden in Lam Tin, in 2004.
He put the shops in the name of his mother, Tse Hau-woon, because he wanted to conceal the fact he was the owner from a rival, the court heard. The doctor admitted borrowing HK$700,000 from his father, but said he had paid back HK$1.5 million.
The relationship turned sour when the elder Lam asked for more money in 2007 as the properties had gone up in value. The dispute escalated from there.
Lam Sing-yin was jailed in 2010 for threatening his son with a knife, but later cleared on appeal. The doctor sought a court order to evict his parents from their flat and an injunction to keep his father away from his clinic.
It was in June 2011 that his father put up the posters.
The judge wrote: "One may perhaps describe [the doctor] as a mean and a meticulous person, especially when it comes to money. He also appears to me to be stubborn and inflexible."
However, Lok said the doctor was a person who would repay every cent he borrowed and would not take advantage of others on financial matters.
He also found that the father was proud of his son's career, but expected him to be submissive.
The elder Lam had helped his son buy the shops and expected to share the profits. He grew frustrated and behaved irrationally when the demands were not met.
The judge found that the son was the real buyer of the shops. Thus, the posters defamed him.
Lok concluded his judgment with a plea to the family.
"The continuing hostility is a very bad message for the younger generation in the family," he wrote. "It is time for them to forget the past and to explore whether there is any other way of resolving their differences without going to court again."