Seized tug and lighter moored close to territory

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 March, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 March, 1995, 12:00am

THE local tug and lighter which disappeared after being hijacked off High Island by armed mainland forces two weeks ago are being detained within kilometres of the territory.

The tug Lee Wo and derrick lighter 20026P are moored among a group of mainland cargo ships and fishing boats at a Chinese border defence base on Guishan Island, just outside Hong Kong waters.

Soldiers were said to be boarding the two vessels occasionally but they were unattended when the South China Morning Post visited the island yesterday.

The lighter's cargo hold, where mainland security bureau officials allege 40 smuggled cars had been stored, was empty. The tug was tied up alongside.

Islanders who saw the vessels towed to the shelter said they were empty and they had not seen any Hong Kong sailors on board.

A fisherman, who had not heard of the incursion, said: 'The two vessels have been moored here for more than a week. It is common that Hong Kong smuggling boats are detained here by border security and usually they are released after fines are paid.' The sparsely populated four-square-kilometre island, under the jurisdiction of Zhuhai authorities, is about six kilometres south of the southernmost tip of Lantau Island.

The Chinese border defence maintains a strong presence there.

Platoons of armed soldiers could be seen on board patrol launches and landing craft moored at a fenced-off navy pier.

The local office of the Border Defence Security Bureau refused to be interviewed but another official said one of their main tasks was to crack down on cross-border smuggling.

A small coastal town, where a dozen barber shops prominently established along the main street offer cheap sex, Guishan has outgrown the fish-farming industry.

There is no ferry link between Hong Kong and Guishan although there is a regular service from Zhuhai. A small power station supplies electricity and there is a reservoir and abundant springs.

Guishan looks set to prosper under a massive residential joint venture between a Hong Kong developer and the Zhuhai Government.