Hong Kong charges captain over Singapore army vehicles

Hong Kong released nine impounded Terrex armoured troop carriers to Singapore in January

Hong Kong on Friday charged a ship's captain over the transport of nine Singapore armoured troop carriers without a proper licence, which embroiled the two cities and China in a diplomatic dispute.

The vehicles were detained in Hong Kong in November as they returned to Singapore after conducting military exercises in Taiwan.

Beijing considers self-ruling Taiwan a renegade province awaiting reunification.

Following the seizure of the vehicles, China lodged a diplomatic protest to Singapore over its military cooperation with Taiwan.

The captain of the transport ship which carried the vehicles, identified in court documents as Pan Xuejun, was charged at Hong Kong's West Kowloon Magistrates Court with "importing strategic commodities not under and in accordance with a licence".

Court documents alleged Pan, 39, from mainland China, had "imported articles, namely, nine ground vehicles specifically designed or modified for military use".

Hong Kong released the Terrex vehicles in January ending the months-long diplomatic row.

Land-starved Singapore has for decades trained its troops in Taiwan.

Ties between China and Singapore were already strained over the city-state's perceived support for Southeast Asian nations disputing Beijing's extensive territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Hong Kong is semi-autonomous after being handed back by Britain to China in 1997. But Beijing controls its foreign affairs issues and there are increasing fears it is interfering in other areas.