Weekend 'soldiers' ruining countryside

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 March, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 March, 1996, 12:00am

ON a hill overlooking the sea in Sai Kung stands Tui Min Hoi Tsuen Public Housing Estate, home to many young families, elderly people and teenagers.

Immediately adjacent to this is the start of a footpath which runs the length of the Port Shelter peninsular. This footpath is well maintained, presumably by the Urban Services Department, and passes through countryside, which although not designated country park, is easy walking, scenic and rich in bird life.

The area is used by picnickers, children on bikes, kite flyers, dog walkers and hikers and provides a safe area for general recreation and in which children can run wild: very precious in Hong Kong.

However, since before Christmas, at weekends and holiday times, this area has been taken over by numerous wealthy young men, driving up-market macho vehicles, which are parked along the road to the estate, who don para-military uniform, complete with gas masks, and then proceed to dig bunkers, make camps with the attendant litter, chop and break down trees as camouflage, swagger around with what look like rapid fire weapons, and give the impression that the area is under siege.

At the end of their war-games the area is left trampled, the trees battered and bruised, the bunkers left unfilled and sandbagged and the whole area covered in non-biodegradable white plastic pellets (bullets?). Great swathes of the hillside have been burnt, probably as a result of the heavy smoking which goes on during rest periods of the 'soldiers'.

I walk every day in the hills around the Sai Kung area, and have found other places where great damage has been done to trees by the plastic pellets.

A tract of lovely countryside at the MacLehose Trail junction with Chuk Yeung Road has been damaged and littered, and the young paper-bark gum trees planted during the last few years have been deliberately shot to pieces.

Although I have never been challenged by these would-be soldiers, I do find their presence threatening and I know other people feel the same way.

Do they need authorisation to take over the hillsides? If so, from whom? If there are war-game clubs operating in Hong Kong, why can't they have areas set aside for them, well away from places for public recreation, and why can't they be encouraged to use water-soluble paint markers as used in Europe? These markers are much more effective when the tally of 'casualties' is made, as the plastic pellets can leave no mark to indicate a strike.

On a more serious note, I feel it can only be a matter of time before an unprotected individual wanders into the middle of the war-games, and is blinded or scarred for life, yet another Hong Kong tragic accident which could and should have been prevented.