Suspected tree thieves arrested

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 March, 2004, 12:00am

Police arrested two mainlanders on a hillside in Sha Tin yesterday on suspicion of stealing wood cut from incense trees.

The arrests followed a string of similar thefts by mainland visitors in recent months.

The mainlanders, aged 29 and 39, were intercepted by officers from the Police Tactical Unit during an anti-crime operation when they were seen acting suspiciously on a hillside opposite Kwong Yuen Estate at about 10am.

Police found a bag containing chopped wood and tools, such as screwdrivers, a saw and a chopper. After inspecting the hill, officers discovered damaged incense trees and wood debris.

Last night, the two-way permit holders, who came to Hong Kong on Tuesday, were being held for questioning at Sha Tin police station.

At least two similar cases have been reported this year.

In January, police arrested a 26-year-old mainlander and seized 13.2kg of cut wood from his bag. The arrest was made after villagers of Ha Wo Hang Tsuen and Loy Tung Tsuen in Sha Tau Kok complained to police, saying many incense trees in the villages had been cut.

The name 'Hong Kong' originates from the incense tree. 'Hong' means incense or fragrance, while 'Kong' refers to a harbour or port.

According to police, the sweet-smelling trees have been targeted by mainland poachers in parks and rural areas recently because they can be used to make incense.

The trees have been cultivated for centuries in the New Territories.

They are regarded as 'precious' plants in Hong Kong and are protected on the mainland. 'Fung shui' trees, otherwise called Buddhist pine trees, have also been stolen from country parks by mainlanders.