Probe Sai Wan work, opponents demand

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 July, 2010, 12:00am

Opponents of development at a Sai Kung beauty spot stepped up their action yesterday, lodging complaints with the Ombudsman in which they accuse the Lands Department of failing to stop the work.

They also plan to file complaints today to the police and the Independent Commission Against Corruption, asking them to investigate whether any crime or corruption was involved in the work at Sai Wan, Tai Long Wan.

The moves come as the Town Planning Board is looking into imposing a temporary zoning on the site, where the owner plans to transform an abandoned village into a private retreat. Under the proposed development permission area, limits would be imposed on changes to the existing land use.

The group of 12 opponents presented a petition yesterday to the Ombudsman's office, asking for a direct investigation. But a spokeswoman for the office would not say whether this would be conducted. She said the office would tell the complainants within 10 days whether the case would be pursued.

Gary Fan Kwok-wai, a Sai Kung district councillor who is organising the complaints, said they were disappointed by the negligence of the Lands Department. 'We are very puzzled why the work on government land at Sai Wan was allowed to continue for a long time and no action was taken to stop it. It seems the department's officers turned a blind eye to the work and failed to enforce the laws.'

Two days ago, lands officials said 5,500 square metres of government land next to the private plots had also been excavated.

The Sai Wan work - including land excavation and formation of two ponds involving a total size of 1.2 hectares - on the 1.8 hectares bought by businessman Simon Lo Lin-shing was first reported by the South China Morning Post on July 16.

It later emerged that the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department had been tipped off about the work in early June. As the work did not encroach on the country park, the department referred the case to the Lands Department.

The lands officer then erected signs there reminding the contractor not to work on government land, though the work still went on until Thursday last week when Lo voluntarily agreed to stop the construction.

By then, large part of the sites had been excavated by three diggers - believed to have been taken onto the site without government authorisation - while two ponds have been created.

Fan said the Lands Department should strictly enforce the law to protect government land. One of the possible legal options was for the government to forfeit Lo's private site and restore the area.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation department said it was still not ready to disclose a list of 54 private sites in or near country parks that are not covered by statutory zoning plans.

It is also still investigating how diggers were moved to the Sai Wan site, which has no road access.