Socialite Brenda Chau loses bid to review dispute of Sai Kung land

Judge throws out Brenda Chau's appeal against earlier ruling over Sai Kung sites

Socialite and barrister Brenda Chau Tam Yuet-ching has lost again in her fight against a government move to cancel her licence to two Sai Kung sites she had used for more than 20 years.

The Court of Appeal upheld an earlier ruling by the Court of First Instance to refuse Chau, the widow of flamboyant lawyer Kai-bong Chau, permission to mount a judicial review over the dispute.

The judges agreed "there is no arguable challenge".

At the centre of the dispute are two sites near Sai Kung's Ma On Shan Country Park, which Chau was granted a licence to use for almost a quarter of a century.

But early last year, a Lands Department check found unauthorised structures - including brickwork, a pond and a bridge - on the 3,700 square metre area. Neighbouring government land was also illegally occupied.

The department then asked Chau to give up the land after she failed to rectify the issues, but she sought to apply for a judicial review, arguing the department's decision was "rash and unfair". She also said the breaches occurred out of necessity.

To obtain leave to lodge a review, her lawyer had to convince the court that her complaint fell within the scope of public law and could therefore be reviewed by the court. The Court of First Instance dismissed the case and the government recovered the sites in May last year. Chau appealed against the ruling and the case was heard last month.

In yesterday's verdict, Court of Appeal judge Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon said: "I accept it is reasonably arguable that a licensee should have the right to challenge [the] decision … [But] it does not follow that such challenge can be brought by way of judicial review [nor that it] can be brought on public law grounds.

"In my judgment, that does not turn the decision to cancel a licence into a decision susceptible to judicial review."


This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Socialite loses bid to review land dispute