Hong Kong and Shenzhen officials can’t agree where the border is – or if a river has moved

Sum Lok-kei
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Hong Kong and Shenzhen officials can’t agree where the border is – or if a river has moved

Hong Kong and Shenzhen officials cannot agree where the border between the two cities lies, it emerged on Wednesday.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor made the revelation during a question-and-answer session with lawmakers at the Legislative Council as she was asked about media reports mainland Chinese border guards were occupying privately owned land in Hong Kong.

Lam said Shenzhen officials claim to have diverted the course of the Sha Tau Kok River in 2013, which forms the border, and arbitrarily changed the demarcation point without telling the government at the time.

But the chief executive said those worried about the integrity of the border were “making a mountain out of a molehill”, and said she and her counterparts were discussing the issue of the river, which Hong Kong maintains has not moved.

Ip Chau-ping, whose family owns one of the four plots partially occupied by members of the Guangdong Border Defence Corps, said he hoped the situation could be resolved.

“The land is no different to being confiscated, in reality we cannot use it,” Ip said.

A FactWire news agency investigation published on Sunday revealed officers from the Guangdong force had turned land bordering its garrison in Yantian, Shenzhen, into a garden.

The Post’s search of government records indicated that land owned by two Hongkongers, and two land trusts, had been affected.

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In response to a question from Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan, Lam said the government believed the area was within Hong Kong.

The chief executive said her stance was based on an order issued in 1997 by China’s State Council, which said the border between Hong Kong and mainland China should lie at the centre point of the Sha Tau Kok River.

Land south of that point is considered within Hong Kong territory.

She said the SAR government, after checking aerial photos and inspecting the site, came to the conclusion the Sha Tau Kok River’s position had not changed.

“Therefore, the area in question should be within Hong Kong’s border,” Lam said.

Mainland Chinese officials do not share that view, and in a meeting between the two sides on Tuesday, Lam said Shenzhen officials said the river was diverted in 2013 to prevent floods. Lam said the Hong Kong government was not aware of this.

“Let me stress here, that we do not know about the diversion of Sha Tau Kok River in 2013, and will not confirm it now,” Lam said.

Lam said Shenzhen officials thought the Hong Kong-mainland China border should be shifted in accordance with the change, leading to different understandings of the location of the demarcation line.

In the meantime, the two governments would keep talking and there might be a need to seek legal advice, she said.

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“Before the two sides come to an agreement, to allay public concerns – because some individuals are making a mountain out of a molehill, saying it is cross-border law enforcement – Shenzhen officials said mainland officers will stop using the land in question,” Lam said.

The FactWire investigation also revealed that a bridge was built over the river with mainland Chinese officers seen crossing it to dump rubbish on the Hong Kong side.

Critics said it was a violation of Hong Kong’s immigration system.

Chan said it was unacceptable that Hong Kong authorities did not know work had been done to Sha Tau Kok River.

“For the past six years, the SAR government’s relevant departments had no idea our border had been changed, or invaded. This is a very serious problem,” Chan said.

“What is happening to our border? Is it being managed, or patrolled?”

Council Front lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick said there should be no dispute over the city’s border.

By occupying the land, mainland Chinese officers had infringed on private property owned by Hongkongers, Chu added.

This article Hong Kong and Shenzhen officials can’t agree where the border is – or if a river has moved first appeared on South China Morning Post

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