Chinese border defence officers have turned a tract of private land in Hong Kong into a 21,000 sq ft garden without the knowledge of the owners or the government, a report by FactWire News Agency claims.
The land, which has been occupied by members of the Guangdong Border Defence Corps, lies next to the Sha Tau Kok River in Sha Tau Kok, in the New Territories, and borders the Yantian District of Shenzhen in mainland China. It is situated in what is deemed to be a restricted area by the Hong Kong government, and is about 900 metres northwest of the Sha Tau Kok Immigration Control Point.
According to the FactWire investigation, the land sits alongside the garrison for the 13th company of the corps’ 6th Detachment, and has been connected to the mainland by a newly constructed bridge.
The Post has verified through a search of government records that the land is privately owned by two Hong Kong residents. We also found a picture from the state-owned Xinhua News Agency in 2015, which shows mainland officers inspecting the garden.
Land records show the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border running through the middle of the bridge, although pictures of the site do not show any immigration checkpoint, while officers in uniform have repeatedly been seen crossing back and forth between the garrison and the garden.
FactWire’s report also reveals that a sign outside a gate between the garrison and the land says it was turned into a garden in 2012 by border guards, ‘with the support of superior authorities, Shatoujiao Office of Yantian District and civil affairs department’ to rear fish and poultry, and grow vegetables.
Lands Department officials said they were investigating the matter. “The North District Lands Department is following up on the situation,” a spokesman said.
Local police and the Security Bureau have said they will follow up on FactWire’s report.
Wong Cheuk-keung, who works for the North District Lands Office, told the news agency: “The mainland government cannot carry out construction work in Hong Kong’s territory. Or, if it was carried out by a private company, it should have contacted the landowners.”
Yau Kwok-man, who owns 15,000 sq ft of the occupied area, said he had not been aware his land was being used in this fashion, nor had he been approached by the Hong Kong government to ask if it could be occupied by the border defence force.
In total, the area is made up of four privately owned plots of land, including some owned by the Ip Ting Ying Tso indigenous land trust, which said it did not know its land had been turned into a garden.
Ip Chau-ping, the trust’s manager, said the land had been fenced off by police after a landslide about 10 years ago, and he was required to be accompanied by officers when entering the area.
Yau, who bought his land in 1998, said he would wait for the Lands Department report, but might need to seek legal advice.
While local officials have said they will investigate, an officer with the Guangdong force said the land fell within a buffer zone along the border, and they did not need permission to enter it.
“For example we can arrest smugglers or illegal immigrants in this area,” the officer, surnamed Liang said. He added he would contact Hong Kong police to discuss the matter.
A 35km long border stands between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, with two rivers – the Shenzhen River and Sha Tau Kok River – running alongside.
Areas south of the centre point of the rivers are considered Hong Kong territory, whilst areas northward fall under Shenzhen control.
According to Hong Kong government documents, the area is restricted and classified as a frontier closed area.
The Hong Kong government’s online Land Registry shows four plots of privately owned land run alongside the Sha Tau Kok River in areas near the garrison.
One of the plots, coded “DD 72 185”, belongs to Yau, whilst “DD 72 186” is owned by the indigenous trust.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said mainland officers are not allowed to enter Hong Kong without going through immigration.
To, a lawyer, also said land owners can file lawsuits against those occupying their land without permission.