Three blind departments finally act on hijacked Sha Tin land

Government bodies agree to stop playing pass the buck on state-owned New Territories site used illegally by hawkers and as a car park

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 January, 2013, 3:55am

Three government departments have finally pledged to tackle the illegal activity on a piece of official land - after ignoring its misuse for 30 years.

The Lands, Transport, and Home Affairs departments are all responsible for the site in the New Territories in different ways.

However, none has moved to stop the land being illegally used as a car park and hawking area. Residents living by the site have even put up drying racks there to hang out their clothes.

The departments' action follows an investigation by the Ombudsman into the site.

Ombudsman Alan Lai Nin would not reveal the exact location of the land, only saying it is somewhere in the New Territories. However, it is believed to be about the size of two basketball courts and located in Sha Tin's Pai Tau Village.

"The authorities have been passing the responsibilities to each other, and avoiding handling it," Lai said.

In a report released yesterday, the Office of the Ombudsman called it an "embarrassment" that the Transport Department had added anti-skid road surfacing to the access point, essentially encouraging illegal parking.

Investigation officer Vancy Cho Wing-sze said the Lands Department had reported difficulties dealing with cases of a transient nature, such as hawking, as it needs to issue a statutory notice of not less than 24 hours.

The Lands Department had previously consulted the two other bodies about turning the site into a fee-charging car park, but decided against the move. The Transport Department had advised there was already adequate parking nearby.

Cho said the Home Affairs Department told the Lands Department in 2010 that the authorities should not interfere with the land's use, if it did not constitute a safety concern.

But last year it changed its stance and said action needed to be taken as soon as possible.

Cho said the three departments have now agreed they need to communicate on how the land should be used.

Spokesmen from the departments told the Post yesterday that they are already liaising on possible temporary and long-term use of the land.

Sha Tin District Councillor Cheng Cho-kwong has been aware of the problem of unlawful occupation for years. "The residents living there have no right to occupy the land," he said.