Tree-poaching suspect arrested

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 July, 2005, 12:00am

A man was arrested yesterday for allegedly chopping down trees which are used to make incense on the mainland.

The 36-year-old, who was caught carrying a saw and an axe, entered Hong Kong using a two-way permit.

His arrest came after emergency unit officers from east Kowloon began a patrol in Leung Fai Tin following reports of suspicious persons being spotted there. The officers heard the sound of trees being cut down about 2pm, and saw a group of men on a hillside near Clear Water Bay Road.

Police managed to arrest one member of the gang while his comrades fled. A subsequent search nearby located a hideout where cooking utensils were found.

The incense trees, or Aquilaria sinensis, are difficult to find on the mainland and are often targeted because they can be used to make incense.

The trees, which can grow to 20 metres in height and are easily identified by their rough bark and smell, have been cultivated in the New Territories for centuries.

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

Yesterday's arrest came after 188 trees at the Tai Lam Country Park were chopped down under mysterious circumstances earlier this month. The culprits did not take the cut trees, which had little financial value, away from the scene. Police investigations into that case are continuing.