A Sha Tin resident wants the government to return legal title of the Che Kung Temple site to indigenous villagers.
Lee Wai-ping claims in a High Court writ that the government is holding the site in trust.
He is seeking to reclaim the land on which the current temple sits. It was built in 1992 on a Tai Wai site to replace the original temple.
Lee says that according to a 1932 court ruling, the government is only holding the legal title for the Kau Yeuk Tai Chung, a rural organisation comprising 48 Sha Tin villages.
Although the temple has since moved, Lee, who claims to be a member of that organisation, says the same conditions should apply to the Tai Wai site.
"The Kau Yeuk Tai Chung is entitled to trace its interest in the trust property and claim equitable title to [the new site], which the [government] holds in trust for the Kau Yeuk Tai Chung," the writ says.
Lee wants the courts to declare that the Secretary for Home Affairs Incorporated is only holding the land on trust for Kau Yeuk Tai Chung members. In the writ, he said Kau Yeuk was a communal area in Sha Tin that was hit by a plague in the early 1600s.
Kau Yeuk residents built the Che Kung Temple to cure victims of the plague, and the outbreak later subsided, he said.
The land that the temple occupied belonged to the Kau Yeuk Tai Chung, he said.
The site changed hands a number of times before being sold by Lau Wai-hing to the Kau Yeuk Tai Chung for HK$180 in 1929.
In 1932, the Supreme Court ruled that the government would hold the legal title of the land on condition that it would not affect the beneficial interests of the Kau Yeuk Tai Chung.
Then on February 12, 1992, the government offered the new site, covering 5,350 square metres in Tai Wai, to build a new temple, the writ said.
Lee maintains that the government was still holding the site of the new temple for the benefit of the Kau Yeuk Tai Chung, based on the 1932 judgment.
He wrote to the government requesting that it acknowledge the Kau Yeuk Tai Chung as the beneficial owner, but the government refused. He then took the case to court.