It is absurd and wrong to suggest traditional ceremonies honouring deceased indigenous Cheung Chau residents in the island’s pavilion would trigger the licensing requirement for carrying on the business of a

funeral parlour, the High Court heard on Friday.

Barrister Abraham Chan’s argument came after the Court of First Instance sided with Cheung Chau resident Kwok Cheuk-kin last February in finding his client, the Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene, had failed to enforce the law when the unlicensed pavilion was causing nuisance to local residents.

It was said the pavilion at Tai San Praya Road had since the 1970s been used for ceremonial activities, in accordance with local traditions and customs to honour those who have lived on the island for at least 10 consecutive years.

The court, in approving Kwok’s judicial review, instructed the director to consider whether any enforcement actions needed to be carried out against Cheung Chau Rural Committee, which managed the pavilion.

But Chan argued in the appeal on Friday that the lower court judge has interpreted the Funeral Parlours Regulation too broadly in reaching his judgment. Indigenous residents were merely paying respects and condolences in their own temple or church according to local religious beliefs.

Such ad hoc ceremonies should not be covered by licensing requirements, he said, as they were not the same as carrying out the business of a funeral parlour.

“There has to be a carrying on of a funeral business for the department to act,” said Chan. “It is absurd and wrong to suggest the definition of business would cover a situation like this.”

He further argued that the purpose of the legislation was to address concerns of public health. The ceremonies at the pavilion posed no significant risk when all bodies were embalmed and placed in coffins.

But Madam Justice Susan Kwan Shuk-hing questioned why this claim was not supported by evidence.

Judgment from Kwan, along with Mr Justice Peter Cheung Chak-yau and Mr Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor, has been reserved to an unspecified date.

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