Residents of a temporary housing estate which is due for demolition have filed a legal challenge against the Hong Kong government’s plan to rehouse them far away, saying it violates the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights.

Members of Shek Lei Interim Housing Concern Group rallied outside the High Court on Wednesday, before one of its representatives Hui Wing-yan handed in an application for a judicial review of the decision.

High Court. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The Housing Authority (HA) in December 2020 approved rehousing arrangements for residents of Shek Lei Interim Housing area.

Shek Lei Estate in Kwai Chung is one of the city’s last remaining temporary housing areas. These are set aside for people who had to quit their previous homes because of landslides, fires or demolition plans for squatter areas, but who are not entitled to regular public housing.

Under the government’s plan, those Shek Lei residents who now qualify for public housing will be offered it, while others will be rehoused at the Po In Interim Housing area in Tuen Mun.

Hui said in his application that the Housing Department violated Article 25 of the Basic Law, which stated that “all Hong Kong residents shall be equal before the law,” and article 22 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights, which stated that “all person are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law.”

Judicial reviews are considered by the Court of First Instance and examine the decision-making processes of administrative bodies. There must be a wider public interest in issues which are reviewed.

Shek Lei Interim Housing Concern Group outside the High Court on June 15, 2022. Photo: Shek Lei Interim Housing Concern Group, via Facebook video screenshot.

Hui asked the court to order the Housing Department to give him “fair treatment” by placing him in public housing.

“The Housing Department’s arrangements used policies of 25 years ago, but they did not take into account the changes made to public housing allocation policy,” he said, adding that rehousing in Tuen Mun would mean longer and most expensive commutes.

“Before taking the step of judicial review, we have tried many methods…we approached district councillors and lawmakers,” said Hui.

Some 3.3 million of Hong Kong’s 7.4 million people live in public housing, where rents are subsidised. But most applicants wait more than six years for a flat. Private housing prices are among the highest in the world and out of reach for many working people.

The plan to redevelop Shek Lei Interim Housing area was announced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam in her 2020 Policy Address.

According to Hui, people from 20 to 30 households will be rehoused in Tuen Mun, while the remaining residents were allocated public housing flats.

The Housing Department told HKFP on Thursday afternoon that it would look into the application for judicial review but made no further comment.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.