Waste on land of prominent family
Cheung Chi-fai and Nicola Li
A prominent banking and real estate family is among the owners of New Territories land that has been covered by dumped construction waste.
The Ma family, which controls the Tai Sang Bank and listed Tai Sang Land Development, owns lots at the eastern end of the dumping site at Ho Sheung Heung village through a private company known as Kam Chan & Company.
The company was among 24 landowners ordered by the Planning Department this week to reinstate the site to its original state and grass it by September 30.
Company secretary Amy Ma Ching-sau said it was following up the matter but declined to say whether the company had consented to the dumping.
'Somebody is handling the matter now ... but don't ask me [about the consent],' she said in reply to a telephone inquiry yesterday.
The company registry shows eight brothers and sisters from the Ma family are directors of Kam Chan, which was named after their father, Ma Kam-chan, a respected property developer and founder of the bank.
One brother, William Ma Ching-wai, is chairman of both the bank and the development company.
A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said some owners had already said they had given consent for the waste to be dumped on their sites, so no further legal action could be taken against the dumper of the waste.
But others, whose identity as landowners had still to be confirmed, said they had never given consent. Some others had yet to be reached.
The driver of a dump truck found to have transported waste from a government work site in Wo Hop Shek to Ho Sheung Heung on July 15 had been questioned but no prosecution had been started.
Meanwhile, police said they had extended the bail of a 43-year-old man arrested on July 13 who admitted dumping waste at the site.
The Planning Department said it was doing all it could to reach all the owners involved and issue the reinstatement notices.
Most of the owners were members of the village's Hau clan, but at least one had a registered address in Britain, it said.
Failure to comply with the notices is a criminal offence carrying a maximum fine of HK$500,000.
The department refused to comment on the actions of Sheung Shui Rural Committee chairman Bowie Hau Chi-keung, who claimed to have consent from more than 20 landowners before planting saplings on the site this week in an effort to prove the land was suitable for farming after the waste had been levelled. The plantation was yesterday fenced with wire.
'This is all we can do to help the residents and we will not be doing anything else until the government officers come and check the site again,' Wong Po-ye, an assistant to Mr Hau, said.
A spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said it would not take samples from the site to check if the material was 'soil' suitable for farming, as its appearance strongly suggested it was construction waste.