Lax enforcement leaves plot illegally occupied for 30 years
Three government departments came under fire on Thursday for allowing government land in the New Territories to be unlawfully occupied for 30 years.
In its investigation report, the office said the three departments had not taken any enforcement action against unlawful activities on the site, located in Pai Tau village in Sha Tin.
The plot had been used by local Pai Tau villagers for illegal parking since the 1980s, and other activities such as hawking, making flower beds, erecting drying racks and installing metal posts subsequently.
The land was unleased and was designated as open area.
The Ombudsman office said the case demonstrated some government departments “focus more on how to evade their responsibility rather than finding solutions to problems”.
The Lands Department, responsible for managing the site, had not attempted to prevent vehicles and hawkers from entering the site, and only referred the cases to the police and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.
“Even though such illegal activities could be handled by other departments, it did not mean that the Lands Department could stay away from the issue entirely,” the Ombudsman office said.
“Rather, when the problems persisted for years after its referral to other departments, the Lands Department should have sought other solutions. It could not just turn a blind eye to the problems or treat them as other departments’ problems,” it said.
The Ombudsman’s office also slammed the Transport Department and the Home Affairs Department for failing to help the Lands Department handle the case.
It said the Transport Department could have discussed with the Lands Department the possibility of removing a vehicle access point or installing railings to prohibit cars from crossing a footpath to enter the site.
In 2010, the Home Affairs Department reviewed the situation and concluded that the villagers strongly opposed a ban of parking there. It then suggested the Lands Department allow illegal parking on the site if it did not raise safety concerns.
The office said this had given Lands Department a convenient excuse not to take enforcement and control actions.
“While it was the duty of the HAD to reflect villagers’ views and expectations, we considered it also the HAD’s function to balance the views of different parties and find a sensible, reasonable and lawful solution,” the office said. “HAD was in effect condoning the illegal activities.”
The three departments said they would look into it and discuss how to resolve the illegal parking on the site. They also said they would decide how this land should be used in the long term.