The government has failed in its effort to shut down a private columbarium in Nim Yuen village near Tung Chung.
The Court of Appeal today rejected the government’s case that the columbarium, with an estimated 30,000 niches, was “an offensive trade.”
The owner, Uni-creation Investments Ltd, had begun the business three years ago after acquiring the land from indigenous villagers, RTHK reported.
But the Lands Department decided that it contravened the government lease.
After the government had sought to resume the plots, Uni-creation took it to court. It won the case in a lower court, but lost after the government appealed.
The Court of Appeal agreed with the original decision that the government’s evidence was weak. According to RTHK:
The appeal court said while, in general, one may feel uneasy “living next door to the dead,” in this case, clan graves and urns containing human remains had existed in the village well before the columbarium opened.
And, in fact, the judge noted, all the land in the village was bought up by the company and no one lives there anymore.
The court further found that a columbarium was not an offensive business, and that legislation already existed to regulate them.
Despite the lack of local residents, villagers protested the plan.
Uni-creation had acquired the land from a number of local residents, including Nim Yuen representative Kwan Wai-on, between 2006 and 2008.
The district office in 2012 had approved the reconstruction of the village homes for personal “domestic use.”
Uni-creation director Cheng Yung-hing is also a former Lands Department official and a director of the company running the columbarium business, SCMP.com reported.