Socialite's widow in Sai Kung land dispute
The wife of the late socialite Kai-bong Chau is caught up in a tit-for-tat dispute at Sai Kung involving the illegal widening of a track to swerve around a brick wall built in the middle of the country park path.
The track runs past four government-licensed sites near a deserted village in Ma On Shan Country Park. The two sites at the lower end of the track are licensed to Brenda Chau, while the upper two are lodged under the name of Au Yeung Chung-sin.
A man representing Au Yeung said he had organised for the path to be widened a week ago in order to bypass the wall, which was built at the behest of Chau's representatives.
Eric Ching said Au Yeung had been given the impression that the widening works were acceptable after speaking to district lands officers.
The track, believed to have been built by the British army, branches off from the northern part of Po Lo Che Road in Sai Kung and leads to the four sites, which the Lands Department licensed to Chau and Au Yeung years ago for cultivation.
Neither occupies the sites but they are known to have become embroiled in a boundary dispute last year.
Ching claimed friends of his were authorised by Au Yeung to use and manage 8,100 square metres of land that they planned to turn into an organic farm.
But when their workers began moving in in September there had been mysterious thefts and damage to water pipes on and near their site. The cases were reported to the police.
'I have no idea why we have become a target,' Ching said.
Then late last year the track was blocked by a gate allegedly erected in Chau's name. It was later removed.
The dispute escalated last month after a land survey commissioned by Au Yeung found Chau's sites may be impinging on his land as well as adjacent government land. Their lawyer wrote to Chau, seeking return of the land.
A brick retaining wall was then built in the middle of the track, meaning vehicles could not pass.
Ching said Au Yeung had repeatedly asked lands and conservation officials to step in, but to no avail.
'They told us they could do nothing about it and said we could widen the track ourselves,' he said, admitting that they had not considered the legal implications. 'Widening the track was the last resort and we had the impression it was acceptable to the lands officials.'
On the morning of 29 January, two diggers moved in and started to excavate. Police and conservation officers visited the site and took the excavators' details, but the digging continued in the afternoon.
Under the Country Park Ordinance, any works within country parks have to be approved by the government.
The Lands Department said it had asked Chau's representatives to remove the wall and had warned both sides about unauthorised structures and fencing found on their sites.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said it would consider prosecuting those behind the digging.
Brenda Chau told the Post she did not know what had really happened and why.
But she pledged to talk to her manager to see what could be done. 'I haven't been to the site for about eight years after I assigned someone to manage it,' she said.
William Chan Po-man, who manages the two sites for Chau and is director of a Sai Kung estate agency, said he had built the wall to reflect the true boundary of her site and to separate it from government land.
'I am correcting the boundary to exclude the area belonging to the government,' Chan said. 'But at the same time, I have to take back what I am supposed to have. All I have done is to follow the map made by the Lands Department.'
Nevertheless, he promised to remove the wall after lands officers visited last week.
Chan also questioned whether his neighbour was actually licensed to operate the sites. Ching, in turn, asked whether Chan could show valid proof of his claims.
Such sites have a history of illegal occupation of government land and of illegal structures, according to Friends of Sai Kung.
The age of colourful Hong Kong socialite Kai-bong Chau when he died a year ago on Thursday