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Last Updated: Friday, 9 January, 2004, 11:37 GMT
HK harbour reclamation reprieve
Protesters against reclamation
Environmentalists have opposed the governments plans for reclamation
Hong Kong's top court has ruled against plans for reclamation work in the territory's well-known Victoria harbour.

Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal (CFA) dismissed an appeal by the government that is should be allowed to reclaim land around the Wanchai district on Hong Kong Island, unless it was in the "overriding public interest."

The government said it would still review its plans for the Wanchai development, in line with criteria laid down by the court.

But it has said reclamation work around the Central district will still go ahead, although another appeal case related to that development will be heard next month.

Environmental groups have sued the government over both proposals, arguing that they violated a law designed to protect the harbour.

Christine Loh, chairperson of the Hong Kong Harbour Protection Campaign told BBC News Online she was "very pleased" with today's CFA ruling.

"The court has provided the most authoritative interpretation of what the law means... it was passed to protect the harbour," she said.

"Reclamation would result in permanent destruction and irreversible loss of what should be protected and preserved," a CFA statement said.

Review

According to the court's ruling the government will now have to prove that any proposed reclamation was in the "overriding public interest" and had no "reasonable alternative".

The government would not confirm that plans for the Wanchai development would be permanently shelved, arguing that there was still a need to review them.

And the secretary for planning, Michael Suen, said dredging work would continue for the Central project, pending the separate judicial review in February.

"I think what we're doing there meets legal requirements," he said.

But environmentalists have also been lobbying against that plan, saying that decades of reclamation have reduced the harbour to half its original size.


SEE ALSO:
Country profile: China
24 May 03  |  Country profiles
Tung admits temporary defeat
05 Sep 03  |  Asia-Pacific


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