Saturday, April 30, 2011 Court win delights Mei Foo protesters

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Court win delights Mei Foo protesters

Judge rejects developer's bid to block action at site

The developer attempting to build a high-rise project at Mei Foo Sun Chuen failed to obtain an interim injunction yesterday to bar local residents from blocking the construction site and protesting outside it.

Deputy High Court Judge Queeny Au Yeung Kwai-yue adjourned the hearing for at least 49 days to give the defendants named in the injunction time to study the legal documents.

The hearing ended with applause from more than 100 Mei Foo residents who attended the hearing.

Yip Siu-chau, a defendant and resident leader, welcomed the decision. He said: "The adjournment means the developer cannot go ahead with the construction immediately and create an irreversible situation."

Billion Star Development is seeking an injunction to put an end to the protests that have halted work at the site since mid-March. It is also seeking HK$1.4 million for losses due to delays in construction.

Residents claim Billion Star is backed by New World Development, but the company denies this.

Giving her ruling, the judge said: "The plaintiff claims it has overwhelmingly strong evidence ... but this is not rare in court and it doesn't mean the court should deprive defendants of their rights to defend themselves."

She said the defendants - six of whom (a district councillor and five residents that led the protests) are named - had only seven days to prepare after they received the writ of summons.

Some of them did not understand the documents, written in English.

The seventh defendant is referred to by the developer as "other persons" entering the site or interfering with its right to use the private road.

Politicians Claudia Mo, of the Civic Party and Tsang Kin-shing and "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, of the League of Social Democrats, yesterday said they were included among the "others".

They took part in a lie-down protest outside the construction site on April 3 backed by 500 people.

The judge said she saw no urgency to grant the interim injunction as residents had held discussions with the developer over a long period and the protests had lasted for more than a month.

She also noted that the residents planned to seek a judicial review of the developer's claim to ownership of a road that is included in the construction site area.

The developer, represented by Benjamin Yu SC, argued that defendants trespassed on its private property and blocked a lawful project.

He said the request for an injunction had nothing to do with suppressing freedom of speech.

The residents disputed the legality of the project and said the developer itself was a trespasser by using a private road within Mei Foo.

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